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Abramovich told to 'breathe deeply and look at the judge'

1 November 2011

There was laughter in the Rolls Building yesterday when Roman Abramovich admitted he had been told to “breathe deeply and look at the judge” when giving evidence.

Abramovich was giving evidence in a dispute with UK-based oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who is claiming $6.5bn in compensation from Abramovich on the grounds that the owner of Chelsea football club forced him to sell shares in a Russian oil company at well below their true value.

It emerged in court that Abramovich, whose QC is Jonathan Sumption, had been given advice by training company Bond Solon on how to give evidence in court.

Bond Solon works with a range of clients including law firms, police stations, local authorities and expert witnesses.

It is understood that the Russian businessman received a standard three-hour ‘witness familiarisation’ programme, which would have been carried out by a trainer who was also a barrister or solicitor.

Witnesses are trained to speak clearly and not too quickly, and encouraged to take a breath before they start to answer a question. They are discouraged from getting involved in confrontations with prosecuting counsel and told to see the barrister’s questions as a way of enabling them to give effective evidence to the judge.

In civil cases, where the judge is the decision maker, they are advised to look at the barrister asking the question, then turn to the judge and deliver their answer.

Abramovich, who is giving his evidence in Russian, would have been told that speaking slowly was particularly important, to allow his interpreter time to listen to his response and make sure it was translated accurately.

Otherwise, it is understood that hundreds of other witnesses every year receive the same training as Abramovich, which costs £850 plus VAT. The case continues.

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Expert witness Courts & Judiciary