This section explains what physical evidence is and gives guidance on how you collect and use this type of evidence. You should also refer to Operational Guidance: Material and evidence management (collection, retention and disposal).
Evidence is required to confirm or disprove reasonable lines of enquiry in order to determine the causes of incidents. It may also be used to prove an offence has been committed if further enforcement action or legal proceedings are subsequently taken.
Facts may be proved in court not just by oral evidence on oath but by ‘documentary’ and ‘real’ evidence (ie "physical evidence"). There is an overlap between these two types of evidence but generally:
- ‘documentary evidence’ is a document in which information of any description is recorded (so a ‘document’ will include photographs, sound and video recordings and computer data as well as information recorded on paper);
- ‘real evidence’ is some material object, the condition or value of which is in issue, or is relevant to the offence you are seeking to prove.
Therefore, in addition to witness statements, you may need to gather documentary and real evidence for the purposes of your investigation.