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Vulnerable parties and civil proceedings

Date:28 OCT 2022

Lawyer: How was your first marriage terminated?

Witness: By death.

Lawyer: And by whose death was it terminated?

Witness: Take a guess.

The internet is replete with humorous courtroom exchanges – genuine or apocryphal - between hapless lawyers and intelligent sarcastic witnesses but the reality is that advocates come prepared with plenty of experience and usually know what they are going to ask. In contrast most parties and witnesses in civil claims have probably never been inside a court and their ‘preparation’ for the experience itself may have involved watching multiple episodes of Kavanagh QC or similar largely unrealistic courtroom dramas.

Such people often regard giving evidence as at best uncomfortable; at worst as daunting or even unthinkable. I have sought to reassure many a client and potential witness over the years that if they listen carefully and answer the questions truthfully and clearly they have nothing to fear from giving evidence. However “black gown syndrome” – as a lay but medically trained witness once referred to it in evidence to the obvious amusement of the Judge – is a real issue...

Read the full article here.