Relevance, Admissibility and Probative Value in a Rational System of Evidence: A South African Perspective




Logical relevance, admissibility, Thayer, Wigmore & Bentham’s relevance theories, probability theory, Bayes Theorem, probative value, discretionary exclusionary rules


In the South African legal system of fact finding and proof the relevance of an evidentiary fact is not governed by the rules of the law of evidence but by a set of extra-legal principles based on the logic of inferential reasoning and probability theory. However, there is no definitive legal definition, or practical test, of what constitutes relevance in a post-constitutional South African curial context, except for an ambiguous pre-1961 reference to a "blend of common sense, judicial experience and logic, laying outside the law". This article critically evaluates the relationship between relevance and admissibility in the adversarial adjudicative process, with particular reference to the peculiarities of the South African legal system, in which the procedural framework of the fact-finding process has been subjected to a post-apartheid constitutional democracy. In addition, this article provides an interpretative synthesis of prevailing international scholarship in the field, develops a functional three-legged practical relevance test for ease of application by all legal practitioners in the courtroom and provides a uniquely different possible statutory definition of relevance and admissibility.


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Author Biographies

Adrian Bellengere, University of KwaZulu-Natal

University of KwaZulu-Natal

Constantine Theophilopoulos, University of Witwatersrand

University of Witwatersrand




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How to Cite

Bellengere, A., & Theophilopoulos, C. (2022). Relevance, Admissibility and Probative Value in a Rational System of Evidence: A South African Perspective. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 25, (Published 11 October 2022) pp 1 – 28.




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