The Elephant In The Courtroom – Witness Intimidation

 

A courtroom can be an intimidating and terrifying place for a witness. Knowing you’re about to give evidence against your attacker, will you be able to think clearly and calmly? Will you be pressured or accused of lying, or possibly, the person you’re giving evidence against will try to intimidate you whilst you’re in court. This is a reality that is potentially harming the statements given by both adult and child witness every day. 

 

In a Home Office Research Study, it was found that 69 per cent of witnesses surveyed said that they either feared or had experienced intimidation during the process of giving evidence in court. This intimidation was experienced before and during the evidentiary hearing. 

 

As we rely so heavily on honest testimonies from witnesses in courts across the globe, it is paramount that these individuals are thinking clearly, feel safe in their surroundings and can speak without the fear of repercussions from the defendant or the defendant’s friends and family. 

 

The most commonly reported source of anxiety stems from when the witness sees the defendant or their associates and it is clear that more needs to be done to separate the witness from the defendant during this process – the technology already available can provide a solution. A ‘Court Video Link’, enables a witness to give evidence from a safe space nearer their home where they can be comfortable, speak confidently and most importantly, not be intimidated in the courtroom environment by the defendant or their associates. In the study, it was found that 91 per cent of witnesses who had given video-recorded evidence found it helpful due to ‘not having to appear in court’, ‘easier to say things’, feeling ‘less scared’ and it ‘helped witnesses to remember details’.

 

Taking advantage of this technology will not only make the process of giving evidence easier for witnesses but can also aid in reducing stress from travelling to and from the courtroom. It can reduce the cost for the individual or taxpayer if the person in question has to attend court. Stress and anxiety can greatly damage our health and in this instance, this can be reduced through video technology. Finally, allowing the witness the choice to avoid the accused is paramount. In this case, we can eliminate the possibility of the witness seeing the defendant outside of court, eliminating the need for a chaperone in court for younger witnesses and finally in situations where special considerations are necessary for witnesses with disabilities – complications can be avoided. 

 

Now in 2019, this technology is available to be utilised by courts, lawyers and legal teams to help anxious or vulnerable witnesses give evidence, in cases where it may be difficult for them to do so in person. Since 1998 Eyenetwork has helped connect witnesses and defendants for video court hearings worldwide. After already connecting to over 875 courts worldwide in 2018,  they continue to spearhead the approach to tackle issues such as witness intimidation in court.

 

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