10.1 An ‘admission’ is a previous statement or representation by one of the parties to a proceeding that is adverse to their interests in the outcome of the proceeding.[1] An admission made outside the proceedings, and which is offered to prove the truth of the assertion in the previous representation, is hearsay.[2]

10.2 The definition of ‘admission’ in the uniform Evidence Acts covers admissions in both civil and criminal proceedings.[3] However, because of the serious consequences of admitting evidence of admissions and confessions[4] made by an accused in criminal proceedings—in particular, the weight that admissions can carry with a fact-finder in negating reasonable doubt—a number of specific rules of admissibility apply.

10.3 This chapter will focus on admissions in the criminal context with primary reference to ss 85 and 90 of the uniform Evidence Acts.

[1]Evidence Act 1995 (Cth) Dictionary, Pt 1; Evidence Act 1995 (NSW) Dictionary, Pt 1; Evidence Act 2001 (Tas) s 3(1); Evidence Act 2004 (NI) Dictionary, Pt 1.

[2] Uniform Evidence Acts s 59.

[3] It was the ALRC’s intention that the definition include admissions contained in civil pleadings: Australian Law Reform Commission, Evidence, ALRC 26 (Interim) Vol 1 (1985), [755]. See also J Gans and A Palmer, Australian Principles of Evidence (2nd ed, 2004), 215.

[4] ‘Confessions’ and ‘admissions’ are distinguished at common law. Confessions are ‘statements which amount to admissions of actual guilt of the crime in question’: R v Lee (1950) 82 CLR 133, 150. In the context of criminal proceedings, Coldrey J in Hazim v The Queen (1993) 69 A Crim R 371, 380 stated that ‘the accepted distinction between confessions and admissions is that the former involve admissions of actual guilt of the crime, whereas the latter relate to key facts which tend to prove the guilt of the accused of such crime. The category of admissions includes relevant false denial’. References in this chapter to ‘admissions’ encompass full confessions and partial or implied admissions. For a discussion on the ambiguity of the definition of admission, and whether the definition of admission includes implied admissions, see J Gans and A Palmer, Australian Principles of Evidence (2nd ed, 2004), 218.