Mark George QC Let sleeping dogs lie: Cross-examination in advance of trial in cases of sexual assault

20 June 2013

Commenting in a piece on the Justice Gap, Garden Court North Chambers’ Mark George QC expresses his concern over the use of the dormant provision under section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, which allows for the cross examination of witnesses before trial in cases involving sexual assault.

“What is to happen if long after the event the witness says that they wish to give evidence in court? And if the answer is that they will still be able to choose at that stage, then again it raises the question about the point of this whole exercise .”

It must not be forgotten that we have an adversarial system in the UK and that involves witnesses being challenged as to the truth of their testimony. That may be unpleasant for the witness but it is a necessary part of the trial process in order to test the validity of the evidence.”

There is an old adage that advises that we should let sleeping dogs lie. The fact that section 28 has lain unused on the stature book for so long should tell us that many think it is unworkable in practice. Despite that it seems the government is now determined to give it a try. I do not think it will work, certainly not in multi-handed cases and I suspect it will turn out to be far more trouble that ever it was worth .”

The full article is available at The Justice Gap.

Mark George QC is a barrister and Head of Chambers at Garden Court North Chambers.

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