Hearsay is not a breach of human rights says Council of Europe


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Hearsay evidence can continue to be heard in the UK's criminal courts without breaching defendants' human rights, provided adequate "counterbalances" are in place, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

Senior judges in the UK had earlier warned that banning hearsay evidence because of human rights law would force a radical re-write of the criminal justice system. The European Convention on Human Rights guarantees "the right to examine witnesses against [defendants] or have them examined".

The ruling by the Grand Chamber in Strasbourg means that evidence from witnesses can still be presented to a court even if the defence has no opportunity to challenge them in person, such as when a witness has died before a trial has taken place.

The judges reached their decision while considering the cases of Imad Al-Khawaja, convicted of indecent assault, and Ali Tahery, jailed for stabbing a man. In Al-Khawaja's case they agreed there had been sufficient counterbalances, but they awarded Mr Tahery £15,000 after deciding his trial had been unfair because it lacked them.