British academy

Dr Déirdre Dwyer

Dr Déirdre Dwyer is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the University of Oxford’s Law Faculty (the first to be appointed by the Faculty) and a Junior Research Fellow of Pembroke College. She is researching the key principles that underpin civil evidence in English law, and more widely within the Western European legal tradition. Her project covers three interrelated areas: first, an examination of the principles that underlie civil expert evidence, as one specific aspect of English civil evidence; secondly, a background study of principles of civil evidence in the Western European legal tradition; thirdly, a detailed study of the principles of English civil evidence. This research represents a significant and much needed contribution to evidence scholarship, since most work in England over the last twenty years has focussed on criminal evidence. It is equally significant the comparative and historical study of European civil evidence, which is of particular broader importance in light of the harmonisation-of-laws provision of Article 65 of the EC Treaty.

Dr Dwyer also lectures in evidence and civil procedure to BCL students at the University of Oxford, and has previously taught public law and administrative law at Queen Mary University of London. She serves as the Book Reviews Editor for The International Commentary on Evidence, and as a member of the Editorial Board of The International Journal of Evidence and Proof. She is Deputy Chief Examiner for the University of London (External System) in Civil and Criminal Procedure, and an examiner in Public Law. In 2008, Dr Dwyer successfully organised an international conference held at the British Academy, to mark the tenth anniversary of the Civil Procedure Rules in England and Wales. She is currently editing the proceedings of that major conference.

Dr Dwyer presented a poster entitled The Principles of Civil Evidence at the 2009 British Academy Postdoctoral Symposium.


Principles that underlie contemporary civil evidence developed over the last two centuries out of the convergen

ce of common law, civilian and equitable legal systems in England and the United States, and codification in European states particularly under the Napoleonic Empire.


Disparate origins cause tensions between principles such as the court’s duty to the truth versus the parties’ control of evidence, and the belief that sworn evidence is true versus the expectation that parties will deceive. The Anglo-American practice of obtaining evidence from one’s opponent before trial (‘discovery’/‘disclosure’) is thus

fraught with difficulties, and viewed with principled suspicion on the Continent.

Current proposals to harmonise civil evidence to support transnational litigation and the European single market are conceptually naïve as they lack a principled basis.

Civil evidence is about jurisdiction-specific expectations of conduct as well as accurate fact determination