Bater v Bater: CA 1951

The wife petitioned for divorce, alleging cruelty.
Held: It had not been a misdirection for the petitioner to have to prove her case beyond reasonable doubt: ‘A high standard of proof’ was required because of the importance of such a case to the parties and the community. although it was a misdirection for a judge in matrimonial proceedings to say that the criminal standard of proof applied to allegations of cruelty it was correct to say that they had to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Denning LJ: ‘The difference of opinion which has been evoked about the standard of proof in recent cases may well turn out to be more a matter of words than anything else. It is of course true that by our law a higher standard of proof is required in criminal cases than in civil cases. But this is subject to the qualification that there is no absolute standard in either case. In criminal cases the charge must be proved beyond reasonable doubt, but there may be degrees of proof within that standard.
As Best CJ and many other great judges have said, ‘in proportion as the crime is enormous, so ought the proof to be clear’. So also in civil cases, the case may be proved by a preponderance of probability, but there may be degrees of probability within that standard. The degree depends on the subject-matter. A civil court, when considering a charge of fraud, will naturally require for itself a higher degree of probability than that which it would require when asking if negligence is established. It does not adopt so high a degree as a criminal court, even when it is considering a charge of a criminal nature; but still it does require a degree of probability which is commensurate with the occasion. Likewise, a divorce court should require a degree of probability which is proportionate to the subject-matter.’


Bucknill LJ, Somervell LJ, Denning LJ


[1951] P 35


England and Wales


CitedDavis v Davis 1950
. .

Cited by:

CitedAN, Regina (on the Application of) v Mental Health Review Tribunal (Northern Region) and others CA 21-Dec-2005
The appellant was detained under section 37 of the 1983 Act as a mental patient with a restriction under section 41. He sought his release.
Held: The standard of proof in such applications remained the balance of probabilities, but that . .
CitedBlyth v Blyth HL 1966
The House was asked as to the standard of proof required to establish that adultery had been condoned under the subsection.
Held: Lord Denning said: ‘In short it comes to this: so far as the grounds for divorce are concerned, the case, like . .
CitedKhera v Secretary of State for The Home Department; Khawaja v Secretary of State for The Home Department HL 10-Feb-1983
The appellant Khera’s father had obtained leave to settle in the UK. The appellant obtained leave to join him, but did not disclose that he had married. After his entry his wife in turn sought to join him. The appellant was detained as an illegal . .
CitedIn re B (Children) (Care Proceedings: Standard of Proof) (CAFCASS intervening) HL 11-Jun-2008
Balance of probabilities remains standard of proof
There had been cross allegations of abuse within the family, and concerns by the authorities for the children. The judge had been unable to decide whether the child had been shown to be ‘likely to suffer significant harm’ as a consequence. Having . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Evidence, Family

Updated: 11 June 2022; Ref: scu.237705