Public documents

Acts of Parliament

1. Evidence does not have to be produced of the existence of Public Acts of Parliament or of Private Acts passed since 1850; they are taken to be "judicially noticed". 1 The text of Private Acts may be proved by production of Queen's Printer or Stationery Office (HMSO) copies. 2 There is no statutory provision as to how the correctness of Public Acts can be proved but reference to such copies and official editions of the statutes will be allowed.

Statutory Instruments

2. Statutory Instruments may be proved by production of Queen's Printer or Stationery Office copies. 3 Where the offence in question consists of a contravention of a Statutory Instrument it will be a defence for the accused to prove that the Instrument had not been published at the date of the alleged contravention, unless reasonable steps had been taken to bring it to public notice, or to the notice of the person charged. 4

European Community materials

3. The European Community Treaties, the Official Journal of the European Communities, European Court of Justice decisions and opinions are to be judicially noticed. 5 The Official Journal is admissible as evidence of any instrument of other act communicated in it. 6 Evidence of instruments issued by Community institutions, including judgments or orders of the European Court, or evidence of any document in the custody of a Community institution may be given by production of a copy certified as a true copy by an official of that institution. 7 Evidence of any Community instrument may also be given by a Queen's Printer's or Stationery Office copy. 8

Approved Codes of Practice and Guidance Notes

4. Where documents referred to in Regulations set out standards, etc., which the Regulations make mandatory, non-compliance with them will constitute a breach of the Regulations. There should be no difficulty in getting such documents accepted by the court, although it may on occasion be necessary to prove that the document in court is indeed the one referred to in the Regulations. A Stationery Office copy would meet such a requirement.

5. Approved Codes of Practice are admissible in evidence where they are relevant. 9 The notice of approval of the Code specifies those provisions on which the code gives guidance, and the expert witness should also make reference to this.

6. Guidance is not admissible unless introduced by an expert. You should still, however, produce an official copy in court.

Births and deaths

7. An entry in the register of births or deaths may be proved by a certified copy purporting to be sealed or stamped with the seal of the General Register Office. It is admissible evidence of a birth or death. 10

8. You must also produce some evidence to identify the person in question with the person named in the certified copy. For example, when a birth certificate is produced to prove age, evidence must also be given to positively identify the person as the person named in the certificate. 11

9. Information contained in the death certificate is evidence of the death only, and is inadmissible as evidence of the cause of death. 12 It may be possible to agree the post-mortem report with the defendant, or call the doctor who made the report if necessary.

Driving records

10. Authenticated records kept by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, as to driving or vehicle licences are admissible to the same extent as oral evidence would be admissible. 13 These records usually take the form of a computer printout from the DVLA.

11. In order to prove that a particular motor vehicle was being driven or used by a person, proof of identity must be available.


  1. Interpretation Act 1978, s.3 and sch.2. Back to reference of footnote 1
  2. Evidence Act 1845, s.3 and Documentary Evidence Act 1882, s.2. Back to reference of footnote 2
  3. Documentary Evidence Act 1868, s.2 and Documentary Evidence Act 1882, s.2. See R v Ashley 52 Cr. App. R. 42, CA. Note that in Palastanga v Solman (1962) Crim LR 334, DC, it was held that a summons should not be dismissed on the ground that the prosecution had failed to produce a stationery office copy of certain regulations. Back to reference of footnote 3
  4. Statutory Instruments Act 1946, s.3(2). R -v- Sheer Metalcraft [1954] 1 QB 586. Back to reference of footnote 4
  5. ECA 1972, s.3(2). Back to reference of footnote 5
  6. ECA 1972, s.3(2). Back to reference of footnote 6
  7. ECA 1972, s.3(3). There is no need to prove the official position or handwriting of the person signing the certificate of authenticity. Back to reference of footnote 7
  8. ECA 1972, s.3(4). Back to reference of footnote 8
  9. HSWA 1974, s.17(2). Back to reference of footnote 9
  10. Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953, s.34. Births and deaths out of England may be proved by entries properly and regularly recorded in foreign registers kept under the sanction of public authority: Lyell v Kennedy (1889) 14 App Cas 437. Back to reference of footnote 10
  11. R v Rogers (1914) 10 Cr. App. R. 276, eg. by calling the person to give evidence. Back to reference of footnote 11
  12. Bird v Keepe [1918] 2 KB 692. Back to reference of footnote 12
  13. Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, s.13, and see Vehicle and Driver Licences Records (Evidence) Regulations 1970. Back to reference of footnote 13

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Updated 2021-08-27