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Special measures: enabling vulnerable individuals to give the best evidence possible

Why can’t witnesses and parties in personal injury cases be afforded the same support as those in criminal and family cases, asks Jonathan Wheeler

27 February 2019

Why is it that my clients receive less favourable treatment when going to court, than they would if they were appearing in the criminal or family courts?

Vulnerable parties and witnesses have long suffered a disservice in their treatment at the hands of an often unhelpful and unfriendly civil justice system.

The criminal courts are well used to applying special measures for vulnerable witnesses, on a statutory footing since the passing of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999.

This includes screening them from the defendant when giving evidence, giving evidence by video link, or in private, using an intermediary to facilitate communication, the removal of wigs and gowns, and prohibiting cross-examination of a victim of a sexual offence by their alleged perpetrator.

The Family Procedure Rules have been amended to facilitate such special measures too and last month the government published its long awaited Domestic Abuse Bill.

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