Advocacy: How to handle a vulnerable witness
The Advocacy Training Council recently published a report on the first major research project in England & Wales specifically directed to considering the training barristers need to develop the right skills and understanding in how to interview, examine and cross-examine vulnerable witnesses, victims and defendants. Nina Grahame ,of GCN, was interviewed for Lexis Nexis Current Awareness (published 3/5/11) about what practitioners can learn from the report.
Extracts from the article as follows:
What problems most concerned practitioners? Grahame observes that issues such as âthe possible âticketingâ of specialist advocates was broadly supported but practicalities such as funding for training and restricted access to representation caused concerns.â Other practical problems of concern involved the âproblems of travel, tiredness and concentration for young defendantsâ.
What were the most important recommendations for practitioners to deal with some of the problems raised in the report? Grahame says that âcompulsory training for advocates together with the use of the âToolkitâ included in the report, a duty of disclosure going beyond the legal minimum in cases involving vulnerable witnesses, and the drafting of an âAgreed Practice Noteâ for the jury setting out details of the difficulties likely to be encountered during questioningâ are the key recommendations.
However, Grahame points out that âextended disclosure will require more detailed guidelines.â
âThe Agreed Practice Note may sound innocuous but is likely to raise significant problems in practice, where agreement between the parties as to the nature and extent of defendantâs or witnessâ difficulties will often be contentious and may require assistance such as multiple psychiatric assessments; no mention is made of where funding could be provided for such necessary assistance.â
18/4/11 - Guidance published on the handling of vulnerable witnesses, victims and defendants in court - review by Nina Grahame of the report "Raising the Bar" (published April 2011 by the Advocacy Training Council).