The best evidence rule is a legal principle that holds an original of a document as superior evidence. The rule specifies that secondary evidence, such as a copy or facsimile, will be not admissible if an original document exists and can be obtained.[1] The rule has its roots in 18th-century British law,[2] at a time when copies would be rewritten by hand and hence more vulnerable to inaccuracies.[citation needed]

History and description

The best evidence rule has its origins in the 18th century case Omychund v Barker (1780) 1 Atk, 21, 49; 26 ER 15, 33. Wherein Lord Harwicke stated that no evidence was admissible unless it was "the best that the nature of the case will allow."[2][3]

According to Blackstone's Criminal Practice, the best evidence rule in England and Wales, as used in earlier centuries, "is now all but defunct."[4] Lord Denning MR said that "nowadays we do not confine ourselves to the best evidence. We admit all relevant evidence. The goodness or badness of it goes only to weight and not to admissibility."[5]

In the United States, the best evidence rule is part of Article X of the Federal Rules of Evidence (Rules 1001-1008).[6] The rule specifies the guidelines under which a party may request that it be allowed to submit into evidence a copy of the contents of a document, recording or photograph at a trial when the "original document is not available."[6][7] If the party is able to provide an acceptable reason for the absence of the original, then "secondary evidence" or copies of the original document can be admitted as evidence. The best evidence rule is only applied in situations where a party attempts to substantiate a non-original document submitted as evidence during a trial.[7] Admissibility of documents before state court systems may vary.

In Australia, the rule was effectively abolished with the 1995 enactment of the Uniform Evidence Law.[8] Section 51 provides: "The principles and rules of the common law that relate to the means of proving the contents of documents are abolished."

See also


  1. ^ Staff writer. "Legal Terms and Definitions". Law Dictionary. ALM Network of Legal Publications.
  2. ^ a b Staff writer. "What is the best evidence rule?". Rottenstein Law Group LLC. Rottenstein Law Group. Retrieved Feb 16, 2015.
  3. ^ The Law of Evidence Dublin 1754.
  4. ^ Hooper; Ormerod; Murphy; et al. (eds.). Blackstone's Criminal Practice (2008 ed.). Oxford. p. 2285. ISBN 978-0-19-922814-0.
  5. ^ Garton v. Hunter [1969] 1 All ER 451, [1969] 2 QB 37.
  6. ^ a b Miller, Colin. "Evidence: Best Evidence Rule". Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction. CALI. Retrieved Feb 16, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Unknown author. "Best Evidence Rule". Cornell University Law School. Retrieved Feb 16, 2015. ((cite web)): |last1= has generic name (help)
  8. ^ "Dictionary: Best Evidence Rule". SK Lawyers. Retrieved Apr 1, 2021.