Best evidence rule

This common-law rule of evidence relates primarily to documentary evidence and the historical common law rule that the contents of a tendered document in court can only be proved by tendering the original of that document. In English Law, this rule is said to date back to the case of Omychund v Barker (1745) 26 ER 15 where Lord Harwicke stated that no evidence was admissible unless it was “the best that nature will allow”.

This common law ‘best evidence rule’ was abolished in Australia when the Uniform Evidence Law reforms came into force in 1995. Section 51 of the Uniform Evidence Law states that “the principles and rules of the common law that relates to the means of proving the contents of documents are abolished”.

This rule was abolished on the basis that the existing law was inflexible and costly, particularly in light of the modern forms of communication, copying technology and the widening scope of the definition of a ‘document’.