Special measures for witnesses
Although the giving of oral Evidence usually requires an attendance at open court, special procedures exist for young or vulnerable witnesses. These include:
- presentation in court of video recordings of the examination by counsel;
- examination by television link;
- screening of the witness from the accused in open court;
- relaxation of the formal dress rules of the courtroom;
- examination in private.
To be eligible for these measures, the witness must satisfy at least one of the following criteria:
- he is under 17, or
- he suffering from a mental disorder that is likely to reduce the quality of his evidence, or
- he is physically handicapped, or
- he is of unusally low intellectual capacity, or
- the quality of the evidence is likely to be low because of fear or intimidation.
For witnesses in sexual offences, it is normally assumed that the last of these criteria is satisfied automatically.
Evidence offered by special measures generally has the same status as that offered in open court, although the judge may given whatever directions to the jury as are necessary to ensure fairness to the accused.