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The Criminal Evidence Act, passed at last session of the General Assembly, inaugurated an entirely new departure in relation to the trial of criminal causes—new that is to say so far as relates to English procedure. In France it is the invariable practice to interrogate.—nay, closely to crossexamine accused persons with the.view •of convicting the. guilty out of'their own mouths, arid with the view also, presumably, of giving accused persons the opportunity, if innocent, of assisting to clear themselves by then; own J testimony of the charges brought against them. In England, on the contrary, ai\ accused person is not only not oapahle of being called upon to testify against himself, but he is not even allowed to give evidence on his own • behalf—all tha*t is open to him being to make a statement, not upon oath. True it has been proposed to uiuend this, and render accused persons and the wives or husbands of accused portions competent witnesses, but tl\o l>ill did not p;iss into law, and New Zealand therefore leads (lie way in giving the now system a trial, ii is yet too curly (.0 pronounce definitely and positively as .to. thn result of the new (IcpartuKj, y<;t, so far at any rate :is we have been able to observe at present., it ."would appear that in vary few instances indeed, if any, has the

privilege of giving evidence on their own behalf been the means of securing the acquittal of accused persons; while ouLhuQllif.r- liaudim\oiafew cases, it lias undoubtedly tended to secure the conviction of tlic guilty. The. case of the • man Justice iii the local Court ye.ster-| [ day appears to us to be a casein point. ' I Amised, having through his counsel j • intimated his willingness to give I ( evidence, if the Court so desired, was sworn, and 011 oath cleared that he

had ever been irr possession of the document or paper which he was accused of having tendered as and for a£l note. If his evidence was to be believed then the principal witness for the prosecution must clearly have perjured himself, for he swoi*e positively to having received the spurious note from the prisoner, and moreover stated that this was theonly note orsupposed note which had been in his possession at any time during the day. Clearly the prisoner's story was such as no one present in Court could accept, and the Bench could not have done otherwise than convict, the evidence of the prisoner being altogether incredible. Had he taken another line and declared that, being in the possession of a £1 note as well as of the old miner's right which he passed as a note, he had given the one in mistake for the other, it seems to us that it is quite possible that the case would have admitted of a doubt, to the benefit of which the prisoner would have been entitled; but as it was, our own impression is that the opportunity afforded by the Criminal Evidence Act and of which he availed himself must rather have tended to secure his conviction than otherwise. That is not at all to be regretted, but at the same time it is worthy of note that this result, rather than the result of securing the clearing of accused persons of the charges against them, is the general effect of the operation of the new Act.

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Bibliographic details

THE NEW "EVIDENCE ACT, Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2411, 26 April 1890

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THE NEW "EVIDENCE ACT Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2411, 26 April 1890

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