Relevancy and Admissibility

Relevancy and Admissibility: The basic principle governing admissibility is that a piece of evidence is admissible if it is relevant but it is inadmissible if it is not relevant. So, it is only evidence of relevant facts which is admissible in evidence. See Section 1 of the Evidence Act, 2011.
By this section, evidence may be given of only two classes of facts namely;

  1. Facts in issue, and;
  2. Facts relevant to facts in issue.
Relevancy and admissibility of evidence

In other words, a litigant may give evidence of only facts in issue and facts declared relevant by the act. This is the inclusionary rule. The exclusionary rule is contained in the provision by which the court may not admit a relevant fact if the same is considered by the court too remote to be material.

See also:- Burden of Proof in Civil cases; Burden of Proof; Hearsay Evidence; Character Evidence; Opinion Evidence; Doctrine of Estoppel.

Facts in issue – Relevancy and Admissibility

Similarly, facts in issue are all those facts which must be proved to establish a claim and defence to a claim. In a civil suit for instance, all those facts which the plaintiff must prove to establish his defence are facts in issue.

The facts in issue in a case of defamation, for instance, would be publications of slanderous or libelous statement by the defendant against the plaintiff, and the defence of justification or any other defence which the defendant may rely on in order to negative liability.

Similarly, in a criminal case, all such facts as the prosecutor must prove in order to secure a conviction, and all those fact which the accused must prove to escape conviction will constitute facts in issue. See the case of Ejuren V. COP and also Section 258 of the Evidence Act.

Relevant Facts

The Act fails to define relevant facts. However, what constitutes relevant facts is deducible from the combined provision of Section 3 to 4. According to Phipson, relevant facts are: facts which, as a matter of ordinary logic or experience, tend to render the existence of other facts probable or improbable.

Thus, fact is relevant if:
i. It appeals to a matter at hand;
ii. It is logically connected and tending to prove or disprove a matter in issue, or having appreciable probative value; and
iii. It tends rationally to persuade the adjudicating tribunal in an attempt to prove or disprove a fact.

For evidence to be admissible, therefore, it must be relevant. The Supreme court clearly stated this as follows:
“Admissible evidence under the evidence Act is evidence which is relevant and it should be born in mind that what is not relevant is not admissible”

Facts declared to be relevant facts under the Act:

  1. Facts forming part of the same transaction
  2. Facts which are the occasion, cause are effect of facts in issue.
  3. Facts showing motive, preparation and previous or subsequent conduct.
  4. Facts necessary to introduce relevant facts.

Relationship of Relevancy and Admissibility

The requirement admissibility is predicated on relevancy has led to the practice of treating the two as synonymous. This is not correct as there are distinctions between the two. This is not correct as there are distinctions between the two. Thus, in Director of public Prosecution v. Kilbourne, the English Court of Appeal, Per Lord Simon stated that:

“…the term relevancy and admissibility are frequently and in many circumstances legitimately used interchangeably, but I think it makes for clarity if they are kept separate, since some relevant evidence is inadmissible and some admissible evidence is irrelevant.

When it is said that a piece of evidence is admissible, what it meant is that the evidence is relevant and is one which can be admitted in a judicial proceedings because it does not offend any exclusionary rule. Accordingly, while all admissible facts are relevant, not all relevant facts are admissible.

A fact which is ordinarily admissible may become inadmissible because a statute declared it inadmissible or the fact is too remote to be material.

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