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The ultimate issue doctrine is often ignored in

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The ultimate issue doctrine is often ignored in practice. InDPP v A & BC Chewing Gum CoLtdLord Parker said:Page 95“. . . I cannot help feeling that with the advance of science more and more inroads have been madeinto the old common-law principles. Those who practise in the criminal courts see every day cases ofexperts being called on the question of diminished responsibility and although technically the finalquestion ‘Do you think he was suffering from diminished responsibility?’ is strictly inadmissible, it isallowed time and time again without any objection.”[28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40]
This case concerned the admissibility of expert opinion evidence on the issue whether certainpublications tended to corrupt or deprave children. It was concluded that expert evidencewould have been inadmissible if the issue had related to adults, but that it was admissiblewhere the issue related to children. In the latter instance the tribunal would need all the helpit could get.It is significant that in 1972 the English legislature abolished the “ultimate issue” doctrinefor purposes of civil proceedings. Section 3(1) of the Civil Evidence Act 1972providesthat where a person is called as a witness in any civil proceedings his opinion on anyrelevant matter on which he is qualified to give expert evidence shall be admissible inevidence. Section 3(2) determines that where a person is called as a witness in any civilproceedings a statement or opinion by him on any relevant matter on which he is notqualified to give expert evidence, if made as a way of conveying relevant facts personallyperceived by him,is admissible evidence of what he perceived. Section 3(3) determinesthat for the purposes of s 3 “relevant matter” includes an issue in the proceedings inquestion. It is important, though, to note that the statute also provides for a discretion toexclude evidence falling under s 3.Another approach is to say that a witness should not be permitted to express an opinionwhich entails a conclusion of law,or which requires the application of a standard of law tothe facts,or which relates to the meaning of words appearing in a statute.This is justa variation of the “ultimate issue” doctrine.Although this doctrine should not bediscarded entirely,the answer in all three aforementioned instances should be that theexclusion of supererogatory evidence remains the governing test.Association of Amusementand Novelty Machine Operators and Another v Minister of Justice and Anotherinvolvedthe meaning of certain words in a statute. The opinion of a language expert was heldirrelevant and inadmissible: the words in dispute were oftenPage 96encountered in common parlance, and the witness was therefore in no better position thanthe court to form an opinion.

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