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Sound and videotape recordings

1. A tape or video recording constitutes a "document" 1 and is hence subject to the same rules with regard to admissibility. A recording may be real evidence when it is tendered to show what it was that was recorded.

2. It will constitute hearsay where you are trying to prove the truth of what was said and will normally be inadmissible unless it comes within one of the exceptions to the "hearsay rule.

3. A video recording, for example, of the working of machinery involved in an accident, will constitute real evidence. 2 It is simply more convenient than the court going to the premises to view the machinery itself. 3 Admissibility of such recordings will depend on their relevance, 4 and may be objected to by the defence on the grounds that the recording is materially different from the subject of the prosecution, for example, that the machinery was modified between the date of the charge and the recording.

4. Where witnesses have seen a contemporaneous video recording of an offence, this is, however, no different from viewing the offence itself. Those witnesses can give evidence of what they saw on the video screen to the court. 5


5. Where a statement contained in a tape is admissible as evidence, it may be proved by production of the tape or of a copy, duly authenticated as the court requires. 6

6. The tape can be produced and proved by the inspector who conducted the interview or any other inspector who was present. The inspector should have listened again to the recording before the trial so as to be able to deal with any objections to its authenticity or accuracy. The inspector can, if necessary, prove who spoke which words on the tape.

7. A transcript of a recording may be produced, at the discretion of the judge/magistrates, as an administrative convenience, and the inspector should have checked it against the recording for accuracy. 7

8. In many cases, the defendant will agree to the use of the transcript without the need to play the tape in court, in which case the inspector who produced it should read out the transcript. The defendant is, however, entitled to have any part of the tape played out loud, and may wish to do so to indicate the tone of voice in which an answer was given, for example. 8


  1. See CJA 1988, sch.2, para.5, referring to Civil Evidence Act 1968, s.10. Back to reference of footnote 1
  2. Karamat v R [1956] AC 256; [1956] 1 All ER 415; Buckingham v Daily News Ltd. [1956] 2 QB 534; [1956] 2 All ER 904. Back to reference of footnote 2
  3. See R v Thomas [1986] Crim LR 682, in which the recording of a route taken by a car was admitted in evidence. Back to reference of footnote 3
  4. R v Quinn and Bloom [1961] 3 All ER 88. Back to reference of footnote 4
  5. Taylor v Chief Constable of Cheshire [1987] 1 All ER 225; [1986] 1 WLR 1479. Back to reference of footnote 5
  6. CJA 1988, s.27. The court is likely to want to know why the original is not available and proof that the copy is accurate. Back to reference of footnote 6
  7. R v Rampling [1987] Crim LR 823. Back to reference of footnote 7
  8. R v Rampling [1987] Crim LR 823. Back to reference of footnote 8
Updated 2020-09-17