Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Hodge's Case Definition:

A rule limiting the use of circumstantial evidence in the trial of a criminal offence.

A rule of evidence in criminal matters which sets out the threshold of conviction based on circumstantial evidence.

Developed from a case called Hodge’s Case published at 168 ER 1136 (1838, England) which stated:

“...the case was made up of circumstances entirely; and that, before they could find the prisoner guilty, they must be satisfied not only that those circumstances were consistent with his having committed the act, but they must also be satisfied that the facts were such as to be inconsistent with any other rational conclusion than that the prisoner was the guilty person.”

The case is referred to as “the rule in Hodge’s Case” because of its bearing on evidence.

From Mezzo v The Queen, Canada's Supreme Court, at [1986] 1 SCR 802, (published at canlii.org/en/ca/scc/doc/1986/1986canlii16/1986canlii16.html):

"(W)here all the evidence is circumstantial the accused can be found guilty only if the evidence is both consistent with guilt and inconsistent with any other rational conclusion."

In another Canadian case, 1965, by the Ontario Court in R v McIver (published at 1 Canadian Criminal Cases 210 and  followed in R v Alberta Hot Oil Services Ltd. 2007 ABQB 155, published at canlii.org/en/ab/abqb/doc/2007/2007abqb155/2007abqb155.html), the Court used these words to describe the rule in Hodge’s Case:

“Before you can find the prisoner guilty you must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the circumstances are consistent with the prisoner having committed the act and you must also be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the facts are such as to be inconsistent with any other rational conclusion than that the prisoner was the guilty person.”

Or, in R. v. Paul, [1975] 1 SCR 181, Canada’s Supreme Court adopted these words:

“The rule (in Hodge's Case) makes it clear that the case is to be decided on the facts, that is, the facts proved in evidence and the conclusions alternative to the guilt of the accused must be rational conclusions based on inferences drawn from proven facts.

"No conclusion can bed rational conclusion that is not founded on evidence.

"Such a conclusion would be a speculative, imaginative conclusion, not a rational one.”

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