Home > Witnesses & Evidence > What are the Rules on Court Evidence?

What are the Rules on Court Evidence?

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 4 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Claims Rules Evidence Court Law Legal

The strict rules of evidence do not apply to hearings in the small claims court. The intention is that litigants in person will find the small claims court to be an accessible means of obtaining justice. The rules governing all aspects of small claims hearings are simplified and state that hearings will be informal.

The Law on Evidence in the Small Claims Court

Part 27 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) sets out guidance for the conduct of small claims trials. This states that the usual rules on evidence at a court hearing do not apply to small claims cases. The only provision about evidence in general that does apply is that the court has the power:
  • to control the type of evidence it requires;
  • to define the issues on which it requires evidence to be given; and,
  • to specify the way in which evidence is given.
This rule is compounded by the very wide powers a judge has to decide how to conduct a small claims hearing.

Documentary Evidence

Whenever a case is proceeding towards a trial, the court will give directions which tell the parties what they need to do in preparation for the final hearing. For most types of cases this will include the preparation and exchange of witness statements and the disclosure to the other side of any documentary evidence which may be relevant to the case.

In the small claims court the directions given to the parties are usually very basic. In most small claims cases the parties will simply be told to send copies of all documents on which they intend to rely to the court and the other party at least seven days before the hearing. The parties are also told to bring the originals of all documents to the hearing. The types of documents will depend on the nature of the case but may include:

  • Contracts and agreements;
  • Letters, emails and any other correspondence between the parties;
  • Invoices;
  • Receipts;
  • Statements of account.
The judge has the power to give more specific directions if a particular case requires them.

Witness Statements

There is no general requirement in the small claims court for a party to provide a witness statement. However, a witness statement can save time and help both the party and the judge focus on the relevant facts and issues of the case. If a party does prepare a witness statement they must send a copy to the court and their opponent before the hearing.

Oral Evidence

Part 27 of the CPR contains special guidance on the use of oral evidence in the small claims court. In most hearings any person giving evidence must take a sworn oath or affirmation. However, in the small claims court the judge can allow parties to state their case – or give evidence – in a natural, conversational way.

If the judge becomes sceptical about a party’s version of events he may then ask the party to go on oath. Some people who take a liberal approach to the facts will often suddenly remember to tell the truth when they are put on oath - and reminded that it is a criminal offence to lie whilst on oath.

Cross Examination

Once a party has given their side of the story it is usually open to the other side to question them about anything that they have said. If a party’s case is set out in a witness statement the other side can ask questions about anything in the witness statement. The purpose of cross-examination is to cast doubt on that party’s case and / or to add weight to the other side’s case.

In the small claims court the judge has the power to limit cross-examination. Rather than the parties cross-examining each other the judge may even ask questions himself. This will prevent a litigant in person, unused to the cut and thrust of a courtroom, being at a disadvantage. The hearing is likely to be much less combative than most trials.

Expert Evidence

The use of expert evidence in small claims trials is extremely restricted. A party may only rely on expert evidence if he has obtained the judge’s permission in advance.

The Weight of Evidence

Although the strict rules of evidence do not apply to small claims hearings, it does not mean that anything goes. When deciding a case the judge will take into account all factors – including the type and quality of any evidence that he has heard or seen during the trial.

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[Add a Comment]
@Jj - Sounds a bit petty all round. It depends whether he has good back up story and can justify his loss of earnings. If you were not insured to drive it from that moment, then you too would have a good reason for leaving it. It's 50/50.
Mr - 5-May-17 @ 10:08 AM
My ex and I are having a separation agreement drawn up. Recently he took away his company car from me and said I was no longer entitled to drive it (phone call) I text him referencethisand he failed to reply. So I left the car where it was (165 miles from home). He is now requesting £250 for going to get the car, claiming loss of earnings (he was already booked on holiday from work when he went to get the car) and was actually at the army reserves that day. Is he entitled to this money? Can he claim loss of earnings when he could of got the car in an alternative day and was paid a holiday day? Should I offer to pay his mileage? Where do I stand as I do not want a ccj against me over something so trivial.
Jj - 4-May-17 @ 6:13 AM
Anika - Your Question:
I bought my friend a computer because hers got stolen out of her apartment the conditions of our agreement was I would buy the new computer she would send the receipt to her renters insurance they would reimburse her the money and then she would give me the money because I paid for the computer when she got the money she never gave it to me I had text messages of her a green to pay me but I had to factory reset my phone because it wasn't working would I be able to win a small claims case?

Our Response:
The text messages that show your friend was willing to pay you back and had only borrowed the money would be acceptable as evidence, should you wish to make a claim via the small claims court.
AboutSmallClaims - 28-Apr-17 @ 2:14 PM
I bought my friend a computer because hers got stolen out of her apartment the conditions of our agreement was I would buy the new computer she would send the receipt to her renters insurance they would reimburse her the money and then she would give me the money because I paid for the computer when she got the money she never gave it to me I had text messages of her a green to pay me but I had to factory reset my phone because it wasn't working would I be able to win a small claims case?
Anika - 28-Apr-17 @ 8:25 AM
I am taking a defendant to a small claims court, can i use a previous conviction if i feel its relevant to the case to prove there aggressive behaviour.
Dan - 25-Apr-17 @ 12:35 PM
I m bringing my past landlord to court over non return of deposits. Landlord is claiming left early on lease. The early exit was discussed in phone conversation. There was damage to this apartment due to a roof leak. Causing water damage to the kitchen ceiling and the tiles to come up in the kitchen. They made no effort to repair these in the 5 years I lived there even though it was claimed they would be. This eye sore made the apartment unrest able to new tenants and they claim we as tenants living in the apartment made it untenable when new tenants came to look at the apartment. The landlords also collected an illegal amount of deposit I found out when this arose. First, last, security, and pet deposits. I had the ability to make my closing date at anytime and only made it for before the end of the lease when landlord approved.What are your feelings? Does the illegal collection of deposit nullify the lease to begin with.
sportingimage11 - 20-Mar-17 @ 3:32 PM
I work on construction in hull as self employed,the sub contract(My employee)didnt paid my wages and my tax,I had a proof I was worked on site from main contractor.I asked him about my tax he fired me and called me racial name and very abusive I reported to police.I am looking for legal advice for the matter,in order to get my wages and paid my Tax.I had all the evidence of being working except contract,as we had verbal agreed.
Smile - 20-Feb-17 @ 3:15 PM
Hello I recently lost a parking eye case, the witness statement was submitted late by the claimant but the judge allowed it to stand. I wasn't even offered an adjournment or right to appeal although it expressly said on the court summons that failure to comply with the instructions (I.e submitting evidence by a set time) would result in the case being dismissed. Does anybody have any advice on my best course of action now? Cheers
AndyB - 17-Jan-17 @ 8:29 PM
With regards a Private Parking Charge Notice I have requested a copy of the contract between the Parking company and landowner.They have refused to send me a copy saying its privileged information.What is my legal position if they do not send this can I tell the small claims court to delay until I have received this information?
finchy - 16-Jan-17 @ 1:05 PM
Jane - Your Question:
I am taking my exes dad to court over 1k that I gave him on behalf of his son to fix a wall on a property we had lived in before we split. His dad had signed for the money being used for this purpose. I have repeatedly asked my ex for the money back because the wall was not fixed. On advise I was told because I had given the money to his dad that it is his dad I need to take to court. I have evidence by way of the signed receipt and also a solicitors letter whereby my ex states he is glad I had decided to release money to fix the wall. They are claiming they don't owe me the money because it was used to put the house in a sellable state. This is not what I gave the money for. Any advice? I'm worried I won't get the money back even with strong evidence that they did not use the money for its intended purpose.

Our Response:
If you gave your ex's fatehr the money to fix a wall and can prove this, your ex's father has no right to keep the money if the work was not carried out, regardless of whether he specified it was used for something else. It may be worth you seeking some legal advice before you pursue your claim, but from what you have said, it seems as though your case is strong enough to take to the small claims court.
AboutSmallClaims - 7-Dec-16 @ 12:06 PM
I am taking my exes dad to court over 1k that I gave him on behalf of his son to fix a wall on a property we had lived in before we split. His dad had signed for the money being used for this purpose. I have repeatedly asked my ex for the money back because the wall was not fixed. On advise I was told because I had given the money to his dad that it is his dad I need to take to court. I have evidence by way of the signed receipt and also a solicitors letter whereby my ex states he is glad I had decided to release money to fix the wall. They are claiming they don't owe me the money because it was used to put the house in a sellable state. This is not what I gave the money for. Any advice? I'm worried I won't get the money back even with strong evidence that they did not use the money for its intended purpose.
Jane - 6-Dec-16 @ 8:01 PM
@Audrey - If your client can prove (either on their phone or by their bill) that they sent the text it is likely they would not be seen as at fault. Even if you hadn't received the text, if they had done all they can to let you know the appointment was cancelled then it's unlikely you would have a claim.
KatiE68 - 30-Aug-16 @ 12:59 PM
How can I prove I didn't recieve a phone call or text message? I only received an email when I arrived at a job saying the appointment was canceled. They say they called and texted and apparently have screen shots as proof, but I really didn't recieve anything. I have a photo of my phone records but they could say I deleted theirs.
Audrey - 29-Aug-16 @ 9:54 PM
How can I prove I wasn't called or texted? I turned up at a job and no one was there. Tennants say they called, texted and emailed at9am to cancel. I recieved the email but my calls log, voicemail and text doesn't show anything. They could turn around and say I deleted them. How can I prove I didn't. H
Audrey - 29-Aug-16 @ 9:46 PM
I am taking landlord to SC for HSC 17920.3 (14) General dilapidation or improper maintenance. The grounds are full of animal feces. The manager won't complywith rules, standards or law. He won'treimburse me for closet door and garbage disposal. The microwave, dishwasher and microwave, bathroom sink do not work. The manager won't acknowledgeor phone calls or written repair requests. I send him receipts and photos. He refuse to throw out the bums who moved in the back of the building.Any thing else or suggestions?
Bucko - 25-Jun-16 @ 7:53 PM
We are about to attend court as a defendant. The claimant being an unscrupulous landlord. Upon the courts instructions we had to give the court and the other party all evidence upon we intend to rely on in court by a specified date. We gave ours to the court and landlord on that date,but I received our evidence from the landlord 4 days later than the date the court specified. The landlord has taken our counterclaim and manipulated it to their advantage. Can I ask the court to dismiss their evidence as it arrived late? The landlord is very very unscrupulousand I feared those would happen
Doris - 26-May-16 @ 7:00 AM
Hi.I am contesting the reasons/amount of my key deposit withheld by Landlord.I video-taped the house upon exit, believing that this would be more reliable evidence than photos that could be 'conveniently' hiding scrapes, marks etc.When I was told that 60% of my key deposit was being withheld I was really glad I'd made the tape.I filled in the small claims form and all other documentation was attached to to WITH my cd-rom of the exit video.Apparently, this can't be used as they only received hard copies????Is this right?
Dons - 15-Jan-16 @ 8:12 PM
Hi We have a small claims case in 14 days - we have received the defences submission, however, they have given false information (claimed an attachment was on an e-mail when it was not - we have the evidence on this) What do we do? Do we inform the courts immediately?
And-e- - 14-Jan-16 @ 7:45 PM
Trj - Your Question:
Im self employed and carried out work for a company, using a cherry picker, I was not the only person using the machine, but the company have belamed me for damage and illeagily withheld my wages, and didnt tell me for over 1 month after the work was carried out the machine was damaged and that they werent paying me my wage to cover the cost. Im un aware I caused any damage to the tyres on the machine.

Our Response:
You would have to read your contract to see what the company's policy is regarding deductions for damage. However, any deduction taken should normally be agreed and a written explanation has been given before the deduction is made. I suggest contacting ACAS regarding this matter, please see link here. However, as you are self-employed you may have less rights to oppose this matter than a regular employer.
AboutSmallClaims - 4-Jan-16 @ 12:50 PM
Im self employed and carried out work for a company, using a cherry picker, i was not the only person using the machine, but the company have belamed me for damage and illeagily withheld my wages, and didnt tell me for over 1 month after the work was carried out the machine was damaged and that they werent paying me my wage to cover the cost. Im un aware i caused any damage to the tyres on the machine.
Trj - 3-Jan-16 @ 7:36 PM
I worked with my brother n his mate as a labour. The other two are brick layers. Before we went self employed it was agreed a wage and a 28% cut of what ever is left outstanding on the houses we built. We have cum to end of building around 8-10 houses and I left as we just finished the houses. It's now come to my attention that they they have 13k left on the houses and got nothing. I have no evidence or contract to say I get 28% of the cut but most people I work of no I was getting it
Corky - 15-Oct-15 @ 5:36 PM
@Gabisile - in the first instance a letter from a solicitor might help and a threat to take him to the small claims court. However, if you take the small claims route you will need to be able to provide evidence that your former partner borrowed the money and that it was a loan and not a gift.
AboutSmallClaims - 18-Nov-14 @ 11:26 AM
My ex partner and father of my child borrowed money from me. I asked for my money several times he keeps saying he will pay me,I what's so messages were he says he'll pay but keeps ignoring me. He doesn't help with child maintenance and I need my money to do things for
Gabisile - 16-Nov-14 @ 5:12 PM
I am wanting to take my ex partner to small claims court. During our 2 year relationship I leant him money as he was in financial difficulty and I also paid for dinners etc. he would say "put it on the tab" so I complied a list every time I leant him money or paid for something I wrote the date and reason. This is on my phone which has not been amended since before we split. I have txt message evidence of him acknowledging he owes me the funds and my attempt to set up a payment plan. I even sent him the lists which he did not deny owing me.I have emailed the small claims court seeking advice, however they were not much help as they are not legally trained. Anyway, I was wondering can I use the text messages as evidence in small claims court? I am owed just under £1000.
Kit - 5-Jul-14 @ 6:04 PM
I am about to start a small claims procedure against a garage who have done a botched re-spray on my car.They have refused to rectify the problem and will not admit liability.I have an expert witness report on the vehicle's condition and this, along with other letters and emails, will be submitted as evidence.An important piece of evidence I also wish to submit consists of tape recordings of phone conversations between myself and the defendant, where he effectively admits liability.All the recordings have been transcribed to document form; the originals are on cassette tape and I have made digital copies.I consider these to be very important evidence and I would like to know how I should present these to the court (and to the defendant) - should I just submit the transcriptions (and also make it known that the recordings exist) and follow the same procedure as for documentary evidence?
Mickey - 31-Jul-13 @ 5:09 PM
An ex-roommate is suing me for jewelry that she claims is missing, after she moved. She has no evidence of even owning this jewelry. She is trying to claim $5000 in small claims court. She is willing to settle for half out of court and is not represented by legal counsel. I will have an attorney. Should I take the settlement? I did NOT take anything from this lady. But, I'm not sure how a judge will rule and don't want a judgement placed against me and ruin my credit. She does NOT deserve this money though. I'm torned to what my chances may be if we take this to court. Any advice or thoughts you might have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Sara - 22-Feb-13 @ 4:52 PM
I have a small claims trial next week and I have proof the Claimant has manipulated the photographs she had sent me and the court and plans to use. What is the Judge likely to do, is helikely to throw her claim out. . Any suggestions?
Daviddefend - 8-Nov-12 @ 10:53 PM
Rule and Law of Evidence in Uk is a role model in commonwealth countries
sanjay - 24-May-12 @ 4:48 PM
The information on this website is complete and accurate.Thank you
Alfie - 12-Mar-12 @ 3:10 AM
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