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Witness familiarisation and special measures come of age

Witness evidence can make or break a case and the courts have used their powers to allow impressionable individuals to receive help from intermediaries so they can give their best evidence. Isn’t it time these intermediaries were used more widely? asks Penny Cooper

25 June 2012

The starting point for the best evidence from witnesses is witness preparation, or witness familiarisation as it is also known. Litigators used to fight shy of this for fear that they might cross the ethical divide and end up coaching their witnesses. All this changed after R v Momodou [2005] EWCA Crim 177, where the Court of Appeal distinguished between preparation from coaching or training. Though a criminal case, the guidelines from it are also applicable to civil matters.

In Momodou a proposed witness training case study came to light that bore a striking similarity to the events in question. At the trial it became an agreed fact between the prosecution and the defence that the training offered was “’wholly inappropriate and improper’. The [trial] judge took a particularly robust view of what had happened and unusually directed that he should there and then be expressly associated with that agreed fact.&rd...

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