Witness Familiarisation

Witness Familiarisation

An essential pre-hearing service for witnesses who are about to give evidence in any Offshore Jurisdiction.

What is witness familiarisation?

Giving evidence can be a daunting and uncomfortable experience for witnesses. A poor performance at a hearing can undermine a witness’s confidence, the credibility of their evidence and be detrimental to the case.

Witness familiarisation is a process which provides witnesses with a comprehensive understanding of the theory, practice and procedure of giving evidence and what is expected of them when they are required to give evidence. This includes familiarising the witness with the layout of the legal forum, the likely sequence of events when the witness will be giving evidence and a balanced appraisal of the different responsibilities of the various people at the hearing.

What is the difference between witness familiarisation and coaching?

Coaching has always been prohibited. Lawyers are not allowed to prepare witnesses on what they should say or attempt to persuade the witness into changing their evidence.

In contrast witness familiarisation is encouraged by both the Bar Council and the Court of Appeal. Witnesses should not be disadvantaged by the ignorance of the process or taken by surprise at the way in which the hearing works. There is a duty to put witnesses at ease as much a possible before their hearing.

Why shouldn’t solicitors or counsel run the witness familiarisation sessions themselves?

The Court of Appeal in R v Momodou [2005] EWCA Crim 177 (par 64) clearly states that in criminal proceedings, none of those conducting the witness familiarisation session should have any personal knowledge of the matters in issue in the case. This has been adopted by the Bar Council in their Guidance, which also states for civil proceedings that until there is further authority, it is prudent to follow the same principles as set out in Momodou.

Mock cross-examination

During the session, witnesses will be cross-examined in a mock hearing. We are able to provide this as our trainers have no knowledge of the case and the case studies we provide will bear no similarity to either the issues or content of the forthcoming hearing.

Follow-up cross-examination sessions

If witnesses will be giving evidence for less than a day, the witness familiarisation session is usually sufficient. If witnesses are likely to be in the witness box for longer than a day, we would recommend they also attend the follow up Cross-Examination session. Prices for the follow up Cross-Examination sessions are the same as those quoted below.

Timing

We recommend the training takes place 3 weeks prior to the hearing to enable the witnesses to concentrate on the training sessions and undertake the necessary preparation prior to them being required to give their evidence.

For further information please contact Edmund Hatton at Sator on 01534 617 298.

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