Relationship, context, tendency and coincidence evidence

Evidence which demonstrates that allegations of domestic and family violence do not occur in a vacuum can be valuable in establishing victim credibility and perpetrator propensity to engage in abusive behaviour. Relationship, context, tendency (propensity) and coincidence (similar fact) evidence can all be invaluable in establishing a case against an accused perpetrator, however if used to infer guilt such evidence is also inherently prejudicial.

In most Australian jurisdictions the law of evidence is codified in evidence acts collectively referred to as the Uniform Evidence Law (“UEL”). The UEL is comprised of Evidence Act 1995 (Cth), Evidence Act 2011 (ACT), Evidence Act 1995 (NSW), Evidence (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 (NT), Evidence Act 2001 (Tas) and Evidence Act 2008 (Vic).

While not identical in each jurisdiction, the UEL provides a cohesive approach to evidence issues across much of Australia. Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia each retain a unique combination of common law and statute (Evidence Act 1977 (Qld), Evidence Act 1929 (SA) and Evidence Act 1906 (WA). In Queensland s 132B of the Evidence Act 1977 specifically provides that evidence of the history of the domestic relationship between the defendant and the complainant is admissible evidence in criminal proceedings.

In UEL jurisdictions a number of judicial bench books provide assistance in directing a finder of fact where tendency or coincidence evidence is relevant:

In other jurisdictions the following bench books may be helpful: