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The difference between direct and circumstantial evidence explained

by , 10 February 2014
Did you know that there's a difference between direct and circumstantial evidence? Read on to find out the difference so you'll know how to enforce discipline effectively.

The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service says evidence is the most important part of building your case and supporting your argument against an employee if you need to discipline or dismiss him.

'If you don't have the right evidence, in the right form, you could lose at the CCMA if you dismiss him,' warns the Loose Leaf Service.

To help you with evidence, we'll explain the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence.

Here's what you need to know about direct and circumstantial evidence

The best way to explain these two concepts is to give practical examples:

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Example of direct evidence: Let's say the security guard sees Mr Smith go into the company storeroom. He looks through the window and sees him take a roll of copper wire from the shelf. He then sees him come out carrying the roll of copper wire.

Now check out an example of circumstantial evidence:

Example of circumstantial evidence: The security guard sees Mr Smith enter the company storeroom with a tog bag and leave after five minutes later still carrying the tog bag. No-one else goes into the storeroom that day. At the end of the day it's discovered that a roll of copper wire is missing from the storeroom.

Although no-one saw Mr Smith take the copper wire, the circumstances suggests he did.

The examples we've given you suggest that direct evidence is much stronger than circumstantial.

That said, this doesn't mean you can't submit circumstantial evidence. Just bear in mind that it'll (circumstantial evidence) carry less weight and it's less likely to convince the Chairperson or Commissioner.

So try to give as much direct evidence as you can. And if you're relying on circumstantial evidence alone, try back it up with direct evidence.

Knowing the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence will help ensure you enforce discipline effectively.

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