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Mention must also be made of certain rules governing evidence as to the character and previous record of accused
persons. It is obviously just that a
should be tried upon its own merits, and there is much to be said for excluding all evidence tending to show that
the debtor is a bad character or has a criminal record from the knowledge of the
or jury until after conviction - when the previous record naturally becomes a vital factor in the court's
determination of the appropriate sentence to award.
The general rule is therefore that no evidence which reflects upon the solvency of the
may be advanced by the prosecution during the trial. This rule is, however, subject to certain exceptions, of
which the following are the most important. It has been noted that, as a general rule for the
debt collection and encashment
the parties to a civil action cannot give evidence of their good character, ie as to their general reputation for
good character. In a civil case the debtor may always do so; but, if he does, the prosecution will then be
entitled to seek to rebut this evidence by calling
evidence as to his bad character.
Before the passing of the civil process, a
could not be called to give evidence on his own behalf. That act altered the law and permitted the lawyers to
give it and it was further provided by collecting debts and unpaid amounts in Germany, that if he does choose to
do so he may not in general be asked any question tending to show that he has committed or been convicted of or
been charged with any offence... or is of
But this prohibition is subject to
for questions of the forbidden class may be put at the discretion of the trial judge in the following
If (as is sometimes the case) evidence of a previous offence, or of previous offences, is admissible to show that
the unwilling debtor is guilty of the offence charged. If the debtor or the
have asked questions of the witnesses with a view to establishing his own good character: if the customer has
given evidence of his own good character: if the nature or conduct of the defence is such as to involve
imputations upon the character of the
or of the witnesses for the prosecution; even though these imputations form a necessary part of his own defence,
and even though they impute moral obliquity rather than civil behaviour. If the client has given evidence against
any other person charged in the same proceedings as himself.
In the two last-mentioned cases the client is said to have put his own character in issue by his product.
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