Evidence in Criminal Matters: Reliability of uncorroborated Oral Confessions
Are the current standards for admissibility of uncorroborated oral confessions sufficient?
Should less weight be placed on such evidence?
These questions, among many others, will be discussed at this year’s Barbados Bar Association Conference on May 18-20, 2018.
As Attorney-at-Law Kristin C. Turton in his interview with us notes, there are a number of investigations in which the main, or sometimes the only, evidence is that of an oral confession. This oral confession is gained by police without any independent third party or attorney present. Sometimes, the confession though recorded in the Police notebook is not ‘initialled or otherwise independently acknowledged’ by the suspect, thus resulting in evidential questions as the case proceeds.
The discussion at the conference will surround the recent decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice in the case of Edwards & Haynes v. The Queen  CCJ 17, in which the highest regional court ‘answered this question in the context of two men who were convicted of murder primarily on the basis of unacknowledged or uncorroborated oral confessions.’
Why this topic?
As Kristin C. Turton observes, with increased levels of crime regionally, ‘there is always a temptation to lower the standard of the evidence which is acceptable so that more convictions can be secured. This topic is important because it allows for an evaluation of our evidentiary standards in the context of one commonly used form of evidence which can be subject to that type of temptation.’
Barbados Bar Association Conference
The conference is to provide an opportunity for jurists to discuss the evidential standards which may be more appropriate. According to Kristin C. Turton, attorneys can ‘determine whether we agree that this type of evidence is not reliable and, if so, reaffirm that the standard of evidence ought not to be lowered to the point where individuals are punished (particularly with a term of imprisonment) on the basis of that type of evidence.’
For more information on the Barbados Bar Association and their conference, visit their website.
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