Collecting physical evidence


1. This section explains what physical evidence is and gives guidance on how to collect and use this type of evidence.

2. You should also refer to the Operational Guidance: Material and evidence management (collection, retention and disposal).

3. Evidence is required to confirm, supplement or disprove reasonable lines of enquiry. If enforcement action or legal proceedings are subsequently taken, it may be required in order to prove that an offence has been committed.

4. Facts may be proved in court not just by oral evidence on oath, but also by 'documentary' and 'real' evidence (ie "physical evidence"). There is an overlap between these two types of evidence but, in general:

  • 'documentary evidence' is a document in which information of any description is recorded. As well as information recorded on paper, a 'document' will include photographs, sound and video recordings and computer data;
  • 'real evidence' is a material object, the nature, condition or value of which is either in issue or relevant to the offence you are seeking to prove.

5. In addition to witness statements, you may therefore need to gather documentary and real evidence for the purposes of your investigation.

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Updated 2020-09-07