Reviewed by Louis Rood.
An understanding of the principles of the law of evidence and how they are interpreted and applied in practice is essential to the proper functioning of our courts. Twenty years after this compilation of cases and statutes was first published in 1997, this new fifth edition marshalls a carefully chosen selection of 37 of the most significant cases that illustrate the relevant legal principles. Notes (in shaded boxes), in both English and Afrikaans, intersperse the judgments at appropriate places to explain aspects arising in the case, what the legal issue is and how the court approached these questions. This commentary threads through each chapter as the topics covered move from the relevance of evidence, hearsay, admissions, and confessions, to the stages in the trial procedure and the presentation of oral evidence. Subjects covered include the onus of proof, corroboration, and the assessment of the evidence. Extracts from the most important statutes dealing with evidence and referred to in the cases are provided, including the Civil Proceedings Evidence Act of 1965, the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977, the Law of Evidence Amendment Act of 1988, the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000, and the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act of 2002, as well as the High Court Rules on disclosure, inspection and production of documents, and expert testimony.
The author S S Terblance BIur LLB LLD, and the editor BC Naudé LLB LLM LLD, both Professors in the Department of Criminal and Procedural Law of the University of South Africa, have expertly combined their academic and practical experience to produce a valuable resource that addresses the core of this vital aspect of the criminal justice system. Reading these measured judgments and the reasoned, rational and logical manner in which the judges apply the principles of evidence to the facts, one cannot but reflect with gratitude on the erudition and intellectual rigour they bring to the task, particularly in a world of falsehoods, fake news, fabrications, alternative facts, and virtual reality.
This book presents itself as a useful and practical companion to another of Juta’s recent publications Principles of Evidence (4th edition) by P.J. Schwikkard & S.E. Van der Merwe, also available in Afrikaans as Beginsels van Bewyssreg.