Myers v Director of Public Prosecutions: HL 1965

Limits to Admission of Hearsay Evidence

It was not for the House to alter the admissibility of hearsay evidence on a case by case basis.
Lord Reid said: ‘I have never taken a narrow view of the functions of this House as an appellate tribunal. The common law must be developed to meet changing economic conditions and habits of thought, and I would not be deterred by expressions of opinion in this House in old cases. But there are limits to what we can or should do. If we are to extend the law it must be by the development and application of fundamental principles. We cannot introduce arbitrary conditions or limitations: that must be left to legislation. And if we do in effect change the law, we ought in my opinion only to do that in cases where our decision will produce some finality or certainty. If we disregard technicalities in this case and seek to apply principle and common sense, there are a number of other parts of the existing law of hearsay susceptible of similar treatment, and we shall probably have a series of appeals in cases where the existing technical limitations produce an unjust result. If we are to give a wide interpretation to our judicial functions questions of policy cannot be wholly excluded, and it seems to me to be against public policy to produce uncertainty. The only satisfactory solution is by legislation following on a wide survey of the whole field, and I think that such a survey is overdue. A policy of make do and mend is no longer adequate. The most powerful argument of those who support the strict doctrine of precedent is that if it is relaxed judges will be tempted to encroach on the proper field of the legislature, and this case to my mind offers a strong temptation to that which ought to be resisted.’

Lord Reid
[1965] AC 1001, [1964] 2 All ER 881, [1964] 3 WLR 145
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedRegina v Hayter HL 3-Feb-2005
The House considered the principle that the confession of a defendant is inadmissible in a joint criminal case against a co-defendant. In a trial for murder, one party was accused of requesting a middleman to arrange for the murder by a third party. . .
CitedRegina v Blastland HL 1985
The majority decision of the House in Myers v DPP ‘established the principle, never since challenged, that it is for the legislature, not the judiciary, to create new exceptions to the hearsay rule.’ and ‘Hearsay evidence is not excluded because it . .
CitedHorncastle and Others, Regina v SC 9-Dec-2009
Each defendant said they had not received a fair trial in that the court had admitted written evidence of a witness he had not been allowed to challenge. The witnesses had been victims, two of whom had died before trial. It was suggested that the . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Evidence, Constitutional

Leading Case

Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.222547