n Acta Juridica - Must we have a theory of proof? : evidence, criminal process and criminology

Volume 2003, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1346
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2088



It is common, when writing a legal textbook, to begin with a general introductory chapter in which the theoretical foundations of the subject are expounded and explained. Chapters of this kind usually hold little of interest for those who are concerned primarily with finding practical answers to legal problems. They are, typically, ignored by them as being the province of academics who amuse themselves and each other by posing and solving riddles that stimulate the mind but have little bearing on the often prosaic world of legal practice. The question that forms the title of this chapter would, no doubt, suggest to some, this kind of exercise. 'Who cares,' one can imagine some people thinking, 'about competing "theories of proof?"'

My purpose in writing this chapter is to show that such views are harmful and wrong. I hope to show that the selection of one or other 'theory' of proof is of the greatest practical importance and that fundamental every-day problems of proof cannot adequately be addressed without making such a selection. I propose to indicate, too, what the implications of the chief competing theories are, and, finally, to put forward some ideas on how we might go about determining which of the theories might best serve us in particular cases.

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