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Making a reasoned judgement FRAMEWORK TO MAKE A REASONED JUDGEMENT ABOUT WHICH SIDE OF A DISPUTE PRESENTS THE MORE CREDIBLE EVIDENCE
When making a judgement, it does not matter which side you decide to support. What does matter is that you present a reasoned judgement-that is, that you assess the evidence and build a case to support your conclusion.
q. Corroboration and conflict q. Balance of evidence q. Weight of evidence q. Quality of evidence q. Judgement
A worked example The scenario An eyewitness sees a young man in HMV putting CDs into a plastic shopping bag. She mentions this to a member of staff who was stacking shelves. He sees the young man putting two more CDs into his bag and leaving the store without paying. The security tags on the CDs set off the alarm and the young man started running. The manager calls the police and the two eyewitnesses give a similar description of the suspected thief-a slim, white male in his early 20 s, about six foot three tall, with blonde, shoulderlength hair. Neither of the eyewitnesses has seen him before.
After a stock-take, 12 CDs are found to be missing. Evidence from the tills shows that they have not been paid for. The titles and artists are reported to the police. The police questioned a stallholder in the local market who sold CDs. Yes, he had bought CDs from a young man who fitted the eyewitnesses’ description. No, he couldn’t remember what CDs he’s bought from him recently, and he’d probably sold them all by now. The stallholder told the police that the person who sold him the CDs was called Derek and gave them his address. He added that he regularly bought CDs from Derek and had always found him honest and trustworthy.
When the police went to Derek’s house, the door was opened by a young man who fitted the eyewitnesses’ description-tall and slim, with shoulder-length blonde hair. He told them his name was Derek and yes, he regularly sold CDs to the market stallholder.
When the police searched his house, they found around 300 CDs, many of them unopened in their original wrappers. None of the CDs matched the titles taken from HMV. When questioned, Derek said that buying and selling CDs was his business. He’d bought about a hundred of the CDs from a local record shop that had gone bankrupt. This was later confirmed by the shop’s owner. Derek claimed that he’d bought the rest of the CDs from dealers at record fairs, but couldn’t remember their names. Nor did he have any receipts to back up his claim.
Did Derek steal the CDs from HMV? Definitely not, he claimed. First, he wasn’t even in the store at the time of the alleged theft. He was having a coffee at his girlfriend’s. His girlfriend confirmed this. Second, why should he steal the CDs? He was running a successful business and produced a bank statement showing a credit of over £ 1500. However, the police later obtained copies of Derek’s various credit card statements which showed that he owed over £ 20, 000. QUESTION Come to a reasoned judgement as to how likely it was that Derek stole the CDs from HMV.
Corroborative and conflicting evidence
Corroborative evidence: ü Both eyewitnesses claim to have seen a young man putting CDs into a plastic bag. ü Both give the same description of the young man. ü The store attendant sees the young man leaving without paying for the CDs. This is confirmed by the alarm going off as he leaves the store. ü The stock-take and information from the tills confirm that the CDs have been removed from the store without being paid for.
Conflicting evidence: ü Evidence from Derek’s girlfriend which states that he was with her at the time of the alleged theft is in direct conflict with the eyewitnesses’ claim that he was in HMV. ü Derek’s claim that he was running a successful business is not supported by his credit card statement which showed he owed over £ 20, 000. ü The market stallholder’s statement that Derek is honest and trustworthy does not fit with the evidence which suggests that Derek is the thief.
Balance of evidence
o Sources which support the conclusion that Derek was more likely to have stolen the CDs: Both eyewitnesses provide evidence which suggests that Derek stole the CDs: -same description of the thief which matches Derek’s appearance -both see a man putting CDs in a plastic bag. -the store attendant sees the man leaving without paying. This information is supported by the alarm, the stock-take and information from the tills. -Derek’s failure to provide evidence that he actually purchased the 200 CDs found in his home. -His credit card debts contradict his claim that he is running a successful business.
o Sources which support the conclusion that Derek was less likely to have stolen the CDs -Derek’s alibi: his girlfriend stated that he was having coffee at her place at the time of the alleged theft. -The market stallholder describes Derek as honest. -The owner of the bankrupt record shop confirmed that Derek had bot 100 CDs from him. -None of the stolen CDs from HMV were found at Derek’s house. -Derek claims that he was definitely not the thief.
Weight of evidence
More likely Less likely First eyewitness statement Girlfriend’s statement Second eyewitness statement Stallholder’s character reference Alarm Record shop owner’s confirmation Stock-take No stolen CDs found at Derek’s house Information from tills Derek’s claim that he was not the thief No receipts for 200 CDs Credit card debts Total 7 Total 5
Quality of evidence (Are the sources believable? )
Ø The two eyewitnesses Ø The alarm Ø The tills Ø The stock-take Ø No receipts Ø Credit card debts Ø Girlfriend’s statement Ø The market stallholder Ø The record shop owner Ø No stolen CDs found Ø Derek’s claim