The Adversarial Process and the Vulnerable Witness

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Oxford University Press, 2001 - Law - 182 pages
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Until quite recently it was commonplace to describe the witness as the 'forgotten man' in the criminal justice system. The last few years have seen a dramatic shift in thinking with an increasing recognition of the legitimate expectations and rights of witnesses within the criminal process.At the same time research has drawn attention to a host of factors that conspire to deny the courts access to the best evidence potentially available when so-called vulnerable and intimidated witnesses are called upon to testify in accordance with conventional adversarial trial procedures andmethods.The official response so far embodies an approach best described as one of accommodation. Efforts have centred on improving the treatment of witnesses within the established trial framework while preserving an overall commitment to key tenets of adversarial theory. The latter include the principleof orality with its general insistence upon direct evidence and the use of cross-examination as a device for testing the credibility of witnesses.The central contribution of this book lies in its demonstration of the significant limitations of the prevailing approach, most recently manifest in the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. By providing a broader theoretical framework for understanding the treatment of vulnerable witnessesit signals the need to extend the search for solutions beyond the boundaries of the paradigmatic adversarial model. Drawing upon modern psychological, socio-linguistic, and victimological study across common law jurisdictions, the book provides a systematic critique of the special measures of the1999 Act and of adversarial trial procedure more generally.As a point of contrast the book also explores the contended advantages inherent within inquisitorial style criminal proceedings for witnesses, drawing on the author's own experience of rape proceedings in the Netherlands. Throughout due account is taken of significant recent developments atnational, European, and international levels which have ensured the place victims and witnesses, once excluded, in any discussion of criminal trial fairness.

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About the author (2001)

Louise Ellison is a Lecturer in Law, University of Reading.

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