Vulnerable And Intimidated Witnesses Case Study

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Are vulnerable and intimidated witnesses adequately protected during cross-examination under the current law? To appear as a witness in a criminal trial has been described as a terrifying, intimidating, difficult and stressful ordeal. It is not an easy experience for vulnerable and intimidated witnesses when the issue of giving evidence about the incident they were involved in is in question. This is because while the witnesses are giving evidence in court they are most likely to re-live the incident and the pain they suffered, and psychologically, this is very damaging. There are a range of measures enshrined in statute to protect victims of sexual offences in court, although these are now interpreted in light of Article 6 of the Human Rights Act, which provides the defendant with a right to a fair trial. Section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (YJCEA) restricts the circumstances in which evidence or questions about the sexual behaviour of a complainant outside the circumstances of the alleged offence can be introduced. Moreover, the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 introduced a range of measures that can be used to facilitate the gathering and giving of evidence by vulnerable and intimidated witnesses which are collectively known as "Special Measures". Nevertheless, the cross-examination of vulnerable and intimidated witnesses is a significant issue, as Andrew Norfolk, chief investigative reporter of The Times has underlined in his articles. The complainant of a sexual offence could previously be cross-examined about being a prostitute or about indiscriminate promiscuity in order to show that she was not to be trusted. There was a tendency to explore the victim’s past sexual experience to... ... middle of paper ... ... language. Next there is the problem of cross- examination which contaminates evidence by suggestion. In W and M, two boys aged 10 and 11 years old were convicted of sexual offences but in each case, the complainant, an eight-year old girl, had withdrawn her key accusations under cross- examination. The Court of Appeal however, concluded that the retractions were unreliable because they were obtained by the use of highly suggestive questioning such as ‘This happened, didn’t it?’ The Court’s message is that cross-examiners must avoid contaminating the witness’s answers. Questions may be quite clear but not permissible because they pressure the witness to respond in one way or another. In the case of E, the Court of Appeal repeated that heavily suggestive questions are not permissible because of the risk that the witness will become confused. Also,

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