I am reading a book called "Gender Stereotyping - Transnational Legal Perspectives", which says that:

The second case, R. v. Ewanchuk36 (“the Ewanchuk case”), concerned the role of sexual stereotypes in the adjudication of a case related to the sexual assault of a seventeen-year-old female complainant. The complainant alleged that Mr. Steve Brian Ewanchuk, the respondent, had sexually assaulted her. Specifically, she claimed that following a job interview in Ewanchuk’s van, she accepted an invitation to see some of his work in the attached trailer. Upon entering the trailer, the complainant deliberately left the door open, but Ewanchuk reportedly closed and appeared to lock it when he followed her inside. Ewanchuk then allegedly initiated several incidents involving touching, each more intimate than the last.


In the trial decision, the complainant was found to be a credible and intelligent witness who had given reliable testimony regarding her nonconsensual encounter with Ewanchuk. Notwithstanding, Ewanchuk was acquitted based on the defense of “implied consent,” a decision later upheld by the Alberta Court of Appeal

My question is: can a conviction be based only and solely on the testimony of the victim alone, without any further corroborating evidence?

In which jurisdiction is that permissible?

  • Is the gap in the text (as noted by the [...] in the quote) directly quoted from the book or id you remove text between paragraph one and paragraph 2 on your own?
    – hszmv
    Apr 25, 2019 at 13:20
  • @hszmv I removed it on my own because I think it is not relevant to my question Apr 26, 2019 at 6:32
  • That's going to affect the outcome as it does not speak to any evidence presented nor the witness's cross-examination testimony.
    – hszmv
    Apr 26, 2019 at 13:26
  • The only jurisdictions where this is not permissible in general (aside from the narrow exceptions of David Siegel, one of which doesn't have a well defined human being victim, i.e. treason) are those governments that apply Islamic law and even then only for some offense with certain kinds of witnesses. There may be a few outliers but I'm not aware of any.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 26, 2019 at 22:33

2 Answers 2


In the US, Yes, generally

In the US an accused can, in most cases, be convicted on the testimony of a single witness, who can be the victim. There are a few exceptions.

Article II section 3 of the US Constitution provides:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The case of United States v. Wood, 39 U.S. 430 (1840) states as a general rule that a conviction for perjury cannot be based on the unsupported testimony of a single witness:

In Russel on Crimes and Misdemeanors 544, it is said,

"The evidence of one witness is not sufficient to convict the defendant on an indictment for perjury, as in such case there would be only one oath against another."

A second witness or supporting documentary or circumstantial evidence was required. However, the court in Wood analyzed the rule and its exceptions at some length, and concluded that documentary evidence, at least when the documents were written by the accused himself, and showed the existence of a conspiracy, of which false statements under oath were a regular part, was sufficient to support a conviction without any witness who testified to the falseness of the accused's sworn statements. The conclusion was:

[It is] the opinion of this Court that in order to convict the defendant of the crime charged in the indictment, it is not necessary on the part of the prosecution to produce a living witness if the jury shall believe the evidence from the written testimony sufficient to establish the charge that the defendant made a false and corrupt oath...

(The case in Wood involved an importer who, according to the government, falsely swore to overly-low values for imported goods, so as to reduce the customs duties payable. A series of letters from the importer to his partner in the scheme in England was accepted as proof. No testimony about the actual value of the goods was presented, but the conviction was upheld. I am not sure if, more than 170 years later, the rule from Wood is still valid law.)

In an article dated 2018 from Time "Here’s Why ‘He Said, She Said’ Is a Myth" the issue of sufficient testimony in cases of rape and sexual assault is discussed. The article says:

Under old English law, rape prosecutions could not be brought unless every material element of the victim’s story was corroborated by another witness or evidence. Because sexual assaults don’t usually happen in crowded pubs, this rule effectively barred many cases. Victims of any other type of crime — muggings, robberies, physical assaults — could provide the sole testimony at trial. Rape victims were uniquely excluded from the criminal justice system.


The corroboration requirement lasted for hundreds of years and became law in the United States. It blocked the prosecution of most rapes. For example, a study in 1969 showed that New York City’s corroboration requirement resulted in eighteen rape convictions out of 1,085 arrests. An outcry in the 1960s and ‘70s caused many jurisdictions to reconsider their requirement, leading to some notorious debates.


New York abolished its requirement in 1972. Today, most jurisdictions have deleted their corroboration requirement.


When Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell wrote in a memo after questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at the Brett Kavanaugh hearing that a “‘he said she said’ case is incredibly difficult to prove,” she neglected to mention that a sex-crimes prosecutor’s very job is to go beyond the parties’ contradictory statements to find evidence suggesting whether “he” or “she” is telling the truth.


What’s striking about the Kavanaugh case is that the evidence we saw at the hearing was more significant than what is presented in many criminal trials where a guilty verdict is returned. Dr. Ford’s credible testimony, her statements making this accusation years earlier, and her lack of motive to lie, especially compared to the incentives for her to stay silent, would be legally sufficient to sustain a criminal conviction for attempted rape.

Thus convictions for rape and related crimes are now routinely made in the US based primarily on the testimony of the victim, often with supporting circumstantial evidence.

  • Why the unexplained downvote? Does anyone think something is wrong with this answer? if so, what, please? Apr 25, 2019 at 22:11


The jurisdiction I am familiar with is England and Wales. Conviction requires evidence (witness testimony is evidence) which proves the case "beyond reasonable doubt". It is open to the jury to find the witness so convincing that they find that they are sure the defendant committed the crime.

In general of course, prosecutors prefer to have some supporting evidence (either additional witnesses, or circumstantial evidence - like DNA.)

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    @raffamaiden Of course. Why not? (Assuming they give evidence of course). Apr 25, 2019 at 12:08
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    @raffamaiden no, it simply means testifying. Any other evidence would have to be provided by the prosecution. Apr 27, 2019 at 0:38
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    @raffamaiden it's not nearly that simple. First, the victim typically cannot bring the charges in court themselves, that has to be done by the office of the prosecutor. If the prosecutor doesn't believe they will be able to persuade a jury to convict the defendant they can decline to prosecute. The prosecutor can have the victim testify to what happened, but then the defense can cross-examine the victim, possibly showing them to be in error or otherwise unreliable. Similarly, the defense can have the defendant testify, but then the prosecution gets to cross-examine them. Apr 27, 2019 at 1:04
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    (cont) The starting assumption is that the defendant is not guilty, and the jury will be instructed to return a verdict of guilty only if the evidence implicates them beyond a "reasonable doubt".If the jury finds no particular reason to believe the victim over the defendant, they would be obliged to find the defendant not guilty. On the other hand , "reasonable doubt" is different from "conceivable doubt". People have to make judgments about the relative veracity of others all the time. Apr 27, 2019 at 1:23
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    (cont) If the victim tells a plausible and reasonable story, and has no history of lying in legal statements, and the defendant tells an implausible, unreasonable story, and has a history of lying in court, then they jury may find that the burden of "no reasonable doubt" has been met, and convict. Apr 27, 2019 at 1:26

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