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Note: This charge is based on the assumption that the judge has already instructed the jury about how to assess witnesses at the beginning of the trial (see Charge: Assessing Witnesses). If this has not been done, it will need to be modified accordingly.
See Assessing Witnesses, for a discussion of the legal principles relevant to this area.
You have now listened to what each witness has said, and watched how they presented their evidence and answered the questions under cross-examination. No further evidence will be given.
To decide what the facts are in this case, you now need to assess this evidence. It is up to you to decide how much or how little of the testimony of any witness you will believe or rely on. You may believe all, some or none of a witness’s evidence. No one can tell you how to approach any particular witness’s evidence in this regard.
It is also for you to decide what weight should be attached to any particular evidence – that is, the extent to which the evidence helps you to determine the relevant issues.
As I mentioned at the start of the trial, in assessing witnesses’ evidence, some matters which may concern you include their credibility and reliability. It is for you to judge whether the witnesses told the truth, and whether they correctly recalled the facts about which they gave evidence. This is something you do all the time in your daily lives. There is no special skill involved – you just need to use your common sense.
While you may take into account the witness’s manner when he or she gave evidence, you should be careful when doing so. As I noted at the start of the case, giving evidence in a trial is not common, and may be a stressful experience. People react and appear differently. Witnesses come from different backgrounds, and have different abilities, values and life experiences. There are too many variables to make the manner in which a witness gives evidence the only, or even the most important, factor in your decision.
In making your decision, do not consider only the witnesses’ testimony. Also take into account the exhibits [and admissions]. Consider all of the evidence in the case, use what you believe is true and reject what you disbelieve. Give each part of it the importance which you – as the judge of the facts – think it should be given, and then determine what, in your judgment, are the true facts.
[This may be an appropriate point to instruct the jury about any issues relating to particular types of witnesses who have given evidence, such as:
It may also be an appropriate point to instruct the jury about any issues relating to particular types of evidence given in the case, such as: