Reasoning about Tendency: What Does Hughes v The Queen Really Tell Us?
Patterns of illicit sexual misconduct by celebrities and institutional carers have been the subject of constant publicity in recent times. These episodes have often led to calls for reform of the law relating to the admission of prior conduct and convictions as evidence of criminal offences. The case of the Hey Dad..! star, Robert Hughes, triggered a High Court appeal on the subject aimed at resolving legal controversies in this area, but the High Court’s decision was regarded as insufficient by the recently completed Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which recommended its own reform. This article argues that the problems lie in factual reasoning rather than legal rule-making. It explores the factual reasoning underlying decisions of admissibility of tendency evidence to try to shed light on issues of probative value not only under the Uniform Evidence Acts but under any legislative or common law regime.