Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Document Definition:

Any written thing capable of being made evidence.

Related Terms: Exhibit

In the Second Edition of The Law of Evidence, authors Sopinka, Lederman and Bryant rely on a 1908 English case, R v Daye, to propose:

"A document has been traditionally defined as any written thibng capable of being made evidence, no matter on what material it may be inscribed....

"Document may, for evidential purposes, be roughly classed Into three categories.

  1. "Documents in the first category are public documents, which are normally proven by the introduction of copies. Their content is evidence of the facts stated against strangers as well as parties and privies.
  2. "Document in the second category, judicial documents, are proven in the same manner as public documents.
  3. "In the third category, private documents are traditionally proven by production of the original document and its evidential value is restricted to parties and privies."

That a document may include an electronic item is now well-recognized. For example, in Canada, one juridiction explicitly defines document to include electronic items:

"Document has an extended meaning and includes a photograph, film, recording of sound, any record of a permanent or semi-permanent character and any information recorded or stored by means of any device."1


  • NOTE 1: Supreme Court Civil Rules, §1-1, B.C. Reg. 168/2009
  • R v Daye, [1908] 1 KB 333
  • Spoinka, John, Lederman, Sidney and Bryant, Alan, The Law of Evidence in Canada, 2nd Ed. (Toronto: Butterworths, 1999), pages 1002-1003

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