Exhibiting evidence

Exhibits to a statement

1. Apart from depositions and statements, all other documentary or real evidence should be exhibited in a statement. This means that each document should be formally produced into evidence by a witness. Each exhibit should be identified, using the initials of the person making the statement and consecutive numbering within the statement, for example, "I produce a sketch plan marked EF1".

2. All of the original statements and exhibits should be made available to the court in the event of a trial. It should be noted that an original exhibit may be required to be examined by the defence, or by a defence or prosecution expert, to enable them to form an opinion. See also the section Expert evidence - the report.

Agreeing reference to documents and real evidence

3. There are strict rules for producing documents and real evidence (material objects) in court. However, if the evidence is uncontentious, you may consider asking the defence to agree to their being relied on in court without being formally produced.

Exhibiting copies of documents

4. The use of copy documents is permitted in criminal proceedings, provided they are authenticated to the court's satisfaction1. In most cases, therefore, copy documents, properly authenticated and exhibited by an appropriate witness, are likely to be sufficient for evidential purposes. It is immaterial how many 'removes' there are between an original and a copy. See Evidence that may assist your investigation for further guidance on the use of original and copy documents in evidence.

5. Copyright is not infringed by using photocopies of documents in court. 2

Company documents

6. A copy of any material registered at Companies House, certified by the Registrar as a true copy, is admissible in evidence in all legal proceedings.3


7. If there is doubt whether a signed or handwritten document is authentic, proof may be provided by the testimony of:

  • the person who signed it;
  • a witness to the signature;
  • someone who is acquainted with the signature or handwriting; or
  • an expert, who compares the document in question with a document proved to have been signed or written by the person in question.

8. If such a document is proved (or purports) to be more than 20 years old, it is presumed to have been properly executed.4

Documents taken from defendant's possession

9. Documentary evidence will normally include documents obtained from the defendant. These should be produced as exhibits in a statement by a witness who can give evidence as to their contents.

10. Alternatively, the inspector who obtained the documents may exhibit them to his/her statement, giving the circumstances in which the documents were obtained. Production of the documents in this way will not infringe the Rule against hearsay provided the prosecution only seeks to rely on the statement to prove that the documents were obtained from the defendant in the circumstances described (rather than to prove the truth of the contents of the documents).

Documents referred to by experts

11. Reference by experts to documents that show the standards that a defendant should have achieved (eg EN/BS Standards, Approved Codes of Practice and other published guidance) is dealt with in the sections Expert evidence - introduction and Exceptions to the hearsay rule. Where these documents form part of a body of expertise in the expert's field, s/he may refer to them in order to support his/her opinion without infringing the rules against hearsay.5


  1. Criminal Justice Act 2003, section 133. Back to reference of footnote 1
  2. Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, s.45(1): Copyright is not infringed by anything done for the purposes of parliamentary or judicial proceedings. Back to reference of footnote 2
  3. Companies Act 2006, section 1091(3). A certified copy has equal evidential status with the original document and is admissible as evidence of any fact stated in the original document of which direct oral evidence would be admissible. Back to reference of footnote 3
  4. Evidence Act 1938, s.4. In order for the presumption to apply, the document must be free from suspicion and 'produced from proper custody', ie have been kept in a place that it was 'reasonable and natural' in the circumstances for it to be (Bishop of Meath v Marquess of Winchester (1836) 3 Bing NC 183). Back to reference of footnote 4
  5. R v Abadom [1983] 1 All ER 364; English Exporters (London) Ltd. v Eldonwall Ltd. [1973] Ch 415. The rule was preserved by the Criminal Justice Act 2003, s.118(1). Back to reference of footnote 5

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Updated 2021-08-27