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Evidence is important in both and Civil law cases. For the purposes of the law relating to evidence, we classify evidence in a number of different ways.
- by directness;
- by meta;
- by originality
In addition, it is necessary to consider whether evidence is admissible or not (see: Admissibility Of Evidence).
Classification by directness Evidence is direct if, were it believed, it would immediately establish the fact in question. For example, if a police officer saw a person break a car window and steal the radio this is direct evidence. Note that whether evidence is credible is not an issue here; directness is not predicated on credibility, but its closeness to the fact.
If evidence is not direct, then it is circumstantial. For example, if the police officer sees a suspect running away from a car with a broken window, and carrying a car radio, then this is circumstantial.
Classification by originality
This issue is much more subtle that it first appears. Evidence is either original, or it is Hearsay. If a police officer testifies that he saw X breaking into a car, this is original evidence of the fact concerning X. If he testifies that Y told him that he (Y) saw X breaking into a car, then this is hearsay against X. It is, of course, direct evidence of the speech by Y -- but this is a different matter. The distinction is important, because hearsay evidence is not usually admitted in criminal cases. A notable exception, of course, is a confession by the accused.