Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Law of Evidence : Thoughts on rules of admissibility, and character evidence

The law on Evidence is really an interesting topic actually. There are all these concepts governing the procedural aspects of evidence in court, like whether it is admissible. The rule of thumb is that an evidence is relevant so long as it has probative value to the issues at hand, but may be excluded if the judge deems that the prejudicial effects of the evidence outweighs its probative force. So for example, a person’s bad character would not be admissible because it would prejudice the jury into assigning greater weight in their evaluation of the accused’s guilt than what might have been so should the evidence not have been admitted. But there are the catches. For example, prosecution is allowed to adduce evidence of an accused’s bad character if the defence raises arguments bolstering the defendant’s good character. The rationale is that the prosecution should be allowed to attack the accused’s character if it is part of the case of the defence that the accused’s good character makes it less likely that he committed the crime.
I have some thoughts about this. The first one is whether evidence in favour of the accused’s good character should be admitted in the court of law in the first place. Isn’t evidence of good character similarly prejudicial as evidence of bad character? So let’s say, a person accused of committing a crime has a record of being a good public citizen like participating in community works or things like that. How does this exactly help the defence case that the accused has not committed the crime in question? If it is going to be argued that it is less likely that someone of upright reputation or standing in his community has less likelihood of committing a crime, then why can’t it be similarly argued that someone of bad reputation has a greater likelihood of committing a crime.
Perhaps the rationale for allowing good character evidence in the first place is because it has indeed great probative force in the defence case that the accused did not commit the crime, whilst this does not apply so much to bad character evidence. No one is totally all bad or good. But if he is generally good, he will not do bad. While if there are some bad in a person, it does not mean that he is all bad throughout.
But if this is the case, then shouldn’t there be circumstances whereby a defendant should be allowed to adduce evidence of his good character, without entire records of his misdemeanor or mud-slinging allegations by any Tom, Dick, or Harry, to be casted upon him? As the law is, once the defendant decides to present evidence of his good character, the gloves are off, and either the prosecution or the co-accused can impugn the accused’s character.
There is a quality about how the law of evidence works which seems pretty ‘gamey’ to me, in the sense that how the case turns out depends on the strategies used by either side in presenting his or her case. I dislike the idea that law is simply a game between lawyers. But perhaps there is a way in which such intricate procedures are necessary in an adversarial legal system as Singapore’s, and ultimately beneficial to the objective of obtaining justice.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to School – Questions about the concept of the Bills of Exchange

It is back to school for me this semester, and it is the second week of the school term. I am taking Evidence, Aviation law, Banking Law, and Advanced torts. I find banking law the most confusing of all the subjects. In part, I am not that familiar with the rationale for the different method of business financing, and the legalese used to describe the various parties involved in a transaction can be confusing. There is this concept known as the Bill of Exchange which is purportedly used commonly in international business dealings. I believe that this video on youtube explains the concept well, although I am still a little hazy on the rationale for such a method for business financing. For one, I am not sure what is the advantage of such manner of financing over a simple bank loan. I might be missing something in my understanding of the Bill of Exchange, but my understanding of it is that the seller of goods allows the buyer to pay for the goods at a later date on condition of a promise written in a legal document known as a Bill of Exchange that the seller buyer would pay at a later date. The seller then takes his copy of the Bill of Exchange and trades it in with the bank for money. The bank collects the money from the buyer at a later date. I wonder though why the buyer doesn’t just loan from the bank to buy the goods and pay the bank back at a later date. 

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