What is the Legal Defence of Factual Dispute?
To prove a criminal charge, the prosecution must adduce evidence and establish facts relevant to each element of the offence. Where the prosecution cannot prove an alleged fact beyond a reasonable doubt, any charge which relies on proof of that fact must fail. Thus, if the prosecution fails to prove an alleged fact and subsequently fails to prove an element of the offence, the accused must be found not guilty.
Strictly, a factual dispute is not a ‘defence’, for the accused has no obligation to prove facts contrary to the prosecution case (but might chose to do so). A factual dispute arises when the accused denies any involvement in the offence and/or disputes the prosecution’s allegations in regard to the offence. Successfully disputing a fact may provide a full or partial defence to a charge. As such, the factual dispute defence is applicable to all criminal offences.
Factual disputes may arise for any number of reasons, such as when: