updated on 21 November 2016
A greater level of training for advocates in relation to the questioning of vulnerable witnesses in court is to be introduced in a joint initiative launched by the Bar Council, the Inns of Court, the Law Society, and the CPS.
The aim is to reduce the incidence of intimidating questioning of vulnerable witnesses, including children and people with learning difficulties. The training will be delivered for free by trained barristers and judges to all advocates dealing with serious sexual offences.
Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, chairman of the Bar, said: “Giving evidence can be difficult or intimidating, especially for vulnerable witnesses, and what they have to say is often vital to the outcome of the case. Using specific techniques for cross-examination helps vulnerable witnesses to feel more secure and means that they are more likely to give their best and most accurate evidence. That is in the interests of the witnesses themselves and the interests of justice.”
Law Society President Robert Bourns said: "Victims and witnesses who feel secure in the courtroom are more likely to communicate vital evidence effectively. While significant progress has been made over the past two decades to support vulnerable witnesses during a trial, more can be done. That is why the Law Society is committed to supporting a consistent level of high quality advocacy."