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When to Use This Charge
This charge may be given where a lay witness gives opinion evidence.
If expert witnesses give evidence about a matter on which they unanimously agree, or if just one expert witness gives uncontested evidence, use Charge: Uncontested Expert Evidence instead.
If expert witnesses give conflicting evidence, use Charge: Contested Expert Evidence.
I must now give you directions about opinion evidence.
NOW was asked by the [prosecution/defence] to give evidence about [describe matter or event]. In the course of giving evidence, s/he expressed his/her opinion about [describe issue and summarise witness’ opinion].
Ordinarily, witnesses are not allowed to give their opinions in court. They must confine their evidence to their own observations. This is because it is you who are the judges of facts, and so usually it is only your opinion that is relevant.
However, the law says that when a person gives evidence about something that s/he witnessed, s/he may give his/her opinion about that thing if it is necessary in order for you to properly understand what it was that s/he witnessed. That is the case here. [Explain how the opinion evidence may assist the jury to understand the witness’ account.]
You should keep in mind, however, that [describe opinion] is only NOW’s opinion. You are not required to accept it. You are the judges of fact in this case. NOW’s opinion is merely a piece of evidence like any other, which you may accept or reject.
When assessing NOW’s opinion, you should examine the quality of the reasons offered for NOW’s opinion, and the facts that support that opinion. A witness’s opinion is only valuable if the facts on which it is based are true.
You should also consider factors such as [describe any factors relevant to the assessment of NOW’s evidence, such as his/her objectivity. Summarise any evidence and/or arguments addressing these factors].
Last updated: 1 December 2009