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Evidence in Case Investigations

Updated: Aug 6, 2022

You are only as good as your last brief of evidence and a good brief of evidence is as only as good as the evidence that you have. To achieve a successful investigation outcome for your client's case, you need evidence to back the allegation made. Simple, right..? Sometimes no and sometimes yes. The real test is in court where not only you have to present a good statement facts to prosecutions but the defence team will break apart every piece of information that you have, word by word, piece by piece, frame by frame.


investigation management software, evidence

Obtaining evidence resolves one part of the investigation puzzle, however the challenge is how you create value from the evidence you hold as well as supporting it with other forms of information. It is a combination of that, which will determine the integrity of your investigation. In this article, we will discuss what constitutes evidence and what you will need to consider in terms of the different types of evidence that you may collect.


Definition of Evidence

In practical terms and in a hands-on investigations process, we propose that evidence is the difference between an allegation and an investigation. Without evidence, a claim is not substantiated, as further explained by LawRight.


According to Cambridge Dictionary, 'evidence' is defined as

  • noun one or more reasons for believing that something is or is not true.

  • noun anything that helps to prove that something is or is not true.

  • noun objects, documents, official statements, etc. that are used to prove something is true or not true, especially for legal or insurance purposes.

  • noun The means by which an allegation may be proven, such as oral testimony, documents, or physical objects.

Based on our investigative experience, evidence serves to prove an allegation and form a conclusion.


Read more about Evidence Law in this article by the National Archives of Australia which discusses the rules of evidence and admissibility.


Types of Evidence

We have observed that there are as many as 20 different types of evidence, as described by Rasmussen University.


However, in practical terms investigators will most likely discover, manage and admit the following the types of evidence:


Oral Evidence

Oral evidence is commonly referred to as a witness/es testifying in court. It can also refer to a witnesses account of the details of the incident when being questioned by an investigating officer. Oral evidence is based on four main components 1) A fact that can be seen (what did you see) 2) a fact that can be heard (what did you hear) 3) A fact of perception (how did you perceive what you saw and heard) and 4) A fact of emotion (How did you feel from what you saw, heard and perceived).


Expert Evidence

This falls in the realm of oral and written evidence. Expert evidence can also be referred to be as expert witness. Expert witnesses are called upon based on their expertise in a specific field that could assist the investigation. For example, an investigation of a suspicious death may involve a medical practitioner who can give expert testimony on the cause of death.


Visual Evidence

Visual evidence is commonly referred to as any video, close circuit television (CCTV) or photos. This type of evidence can also include oral or audio recordings when paired with the imagery. For instance, words exchanged between two people before the incident is a valuable form of evidence as both oral and visual accounts are recorded and cannot be disputed. It is important that this type of evidence is captured, stored and transferred securely through a trusted investigation management system such as Viddle.


Documentary Evidence

Documentary evidence is any form of document or paperwork which includes statements, records and graphs. The most common form of document evidence is witness statements. Witness statements are the record of events observed by the witness which is transferred into a legally binding document and presented in court. Witness statements are often accompanied with oral evidence and expert evidence to confirm the event. Depending on the type of investigation, other forms also include medical records, banking records, telephone records and utility records. It is always important that document evidence is recorded and stored securely in order to maintain the continuity of evidence. Viddle software includes digital statements whereby paperless statements are completed using digital signatures and stored in a secure cloud data with AWS.


Electronic Evidence

Significant developments in technology, such as the use of software programs like Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) are becoming more prevalent in the investigation industry. While many people can readily recognise electronic evidence as images or videos captured in mobile phones and cameras, we are specifically referring to the digital fingerprint that left by an individual in cyber space. Every time you communicate or network on the internet, you are essentially sending packets of data into the web and without sufficient firewalls or privacy settings (VPN) your information can be vulnerable for infiltration or used in the dark web. From an investigative point of view, this information can be used as evidence. For instance, determining an Internet Protocol (IP) address can corroborate the location of the subject.


Online Evidence

This can be categorised into the same area of electronic evidence but this field is becoming more and more prevalent since the introduction of the metaverse and the world of online gaming, virtual groups coupled with the global effects of Covid 19. Online evidence is any online platform where users can converse, trade, sell or buy goods, material or information. This type of evidence has the potential to be a effective tool if you are able to access the right areas and identify your subject. From my perspective, online evidence is an area not to be underestimated as it is a growing and fast moving trend. More and more people use online avenues to conduct illegal activities as they can disguise themselves with online user handles and use onion routers, virtual private networks and encrypted messaging to evade detection. Technology enabled crime and investigations is here to stay and will continue to evolve, however, the greatest challenge investigators will face is being able to keep up with the pace of advancement.


Direct vs. Circumstantial Evidence

The types of evidence mentioned above indicates how you can gather information to support your investigation, however, it is important to be aware of that there are two main concepts of evidence which plays a significant role in presenting your case.


Direct evidence is the proof that the evidence gathered is linked directly to the allegation or compliant made, without inference or contest of the facts. For example, if shopkeeper X discovers a theft of a chocolate bar at his grocery store. Shopkeeper X checks his CCTV and observes an unknown person Y, had picked up the chocolate bar and placed it his front pocket and then walks out the store without paying. The CCTV footage (visual & electronic evidence) is a form of direct evidence. Similarly, if witness A saw person Y do the same thing than that too is direct evidence.


Circumstantial evidence is information that’s surrounds or supports the allegation or complaint. Circumstantial evidence is open to inference or contest if used with some form of direct evidence. Going back to our example of the chocolate bar theft, if witness B was standing outside the grocery store, and saw person Y eating a chocolate bar nearby than that would be considered circumstantial evidence because there was no direct link with the theft of the chocolate bar. If the witness statement is only used to prove the theft of a chocolate bar, then it can be argued that person Y had previously bought the item or was given to him prior to the incident.


Final Verdict

Evidence is an integral part in any form of investigation. It proves or disproves the allegations of the incident, offence or compliant. Evidence seeks the truth of the event and establishes the foundations of the investigation. There are several forms of evidence that could be used to assist your investigation. Oral, expert, visual and documentary evidence are traditional forms of evidence. Electronic and online evidence are becoming more frequent in use in the investigations industry. The online world is ever evolving and here to stay. The challenge ahead is for investigators to be ahead of the curve and embrace the technological changes that impact how evidence is managed.

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