17.1 As a general rule, parties to a court proceeding must prove all facts pertinent to their case. This process of discovering truth by a rational investigation is considered essential to the conduct of a just and fair hearing.[1] However, as with many areas of knowledge and endeavour, there are exceptions to this general rule. In the case of proving facts in court, the following exceptions are seen to promote just and efficient disposition of cases:

  • the admission into evidence of facts that are formally admitted or agreed to by the parties; and

  • the admission into evidence of facts of which the presiding judge may take ‘notice’.

17.2 The second exception is known as the doctrine of ‘judicial notice’. Judicial notice is considered ‘the great exception’ to the relatively modern rule that a tribunal of fact must, in coming to a decision, rely only on facts that are formally proved. [2] Put another way, the doctrine of judicial notice obviates the need for a party formally to prove certain facts in issue.[3] The advantage of judicial notice to the parties and to the court is the shortcut in time, effort and expense.

[1] This was not always so, see J Stone and W Wells, Evidence: Its History and Policies (1991), Ch 1.

[2] ‘Before the end of the eighteenth century this change was complete and the modern rule prohibiting [juries] from acting on their own knowledge was fully established’: Ibid, 153.

[3] Ibid, 155.