Keywords: Vulnerable witness – cross-examination – care proceedings – special measures
This article considers who is a ‘vulnerable witness’ and how their evidence is heard in family court care proceedings. It compares practices in care proceedings with criminal cases and questions whether parity with the criminal courts should be the goal of the family justice system. The author concludes that there are a number of steps that the family justice system ought to take to ensure fairness to vulnerable witnesses including putting in place a practical scheme for special measures and reframing the legal test for children giving oral testimony in care proceedings. The Family Justice Board is encouraged to consider not so much parity with the criminal justice system, but the bigger issue of how care proceedings could be redesigned to allow greater participation of children and vulnerable adults.