Hearsay evidence is, in general, not admissible in court.
Hearsay evidence is evidence of what some person, other than the witness, has said (on some other occasion), where the purpose of recounting what was said is to establish the truth of what was said (as opposed to the fact that it was said).
Some examples may illustrate this;
“The Defendant’s grandfather told me the Defendant was in Galway on the 1st April 2009, the day the burglary was committed in Grafton St., in Dublin.” – This is hearsay; the witness is intending to establish that the Defendant was in Galway and not in Dublin and, therefore that the Defendant is innocent.
“The salesman told me the car had done only 5,000 miles”. – This is not hearsay; the witness is intending to establish what the salesman told him, not to establish that it was true.
Why is hearsay evidence not admissible? Because it is unfair to admit it. If it is false evidence, by what means can the other party attack it or undermine it? Cross-examination will have little effect; the witness need only say, “…that’s what he said” in answer to questions suggesting that what was said was untrue.
There are exceptions to the rule, but a discussion of them here would be tiresome.
One example is sufficient; a witness may recount what a dying victim said to the witness – “ Jim stabbed me!”, for the purpose of establishing that that statement is evidence that it was, indeed, Jim who committed the crime and not somebody else.
(Jim being the victim’s husband).
This post is about Irish law; see HERE for material on English law.