Strengths and weaknesses of the adversary system of trial

Role of the parties

Advantages Disadvantages
Each party is empowered to discover the truth, acting out of self-interest to present the best case and win Unfavourable evidence may be omitted, leading to the truth not being revealed
Each party is in control of their own case, which gives individuals access to the legal system  High costs may discourage a person from pursuing legal action, as cases can become a contest over who can spend the most money and employ the most skilled lawyer
Basic democratic right to defend oneself is upheld Democratic right to defend oneself is diminished if one cannot afford legal representation

Role of legal representation

Advantages Disadvantages
Lawyers provide expertise and knowledge of how to present a good case The outcome may be more of a reflection on who has the best legal representation

Role of the judge

Advantages Disadvantages
Impartial third party upholds principles of fairness, equality and justice Impartial role sees that a judge’s expertise is not fully utilised. They cannot use their knowledge to help the parties

Rules of evidence and procedure

Advantages Disadvantages
Inadmissible evidence rules protect both parties as unreliable evidence is not heard Delays do occur for a number of reasons. This means that a trial is not strictly “single and continuous” and problems can arise (for example, juries or witnesses may forget details)
Rules of procedure ensure continuity and therefore evidence should be easier to follow Complex rules mean that legal representation is all the more necessary

Standards and burden of proof

Advantages Disadvantages
In criminal cases, the high standard of proof required to find an accused guilty helps ensure certainty in the verdict The prosecution or plaintiff may omit unfavourable evidence in an attempt to win the case

See also:

Features of the adversary system of trial