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Working with Vulnerable Witnesses

These resources are designed to help you work with children and vulnerable witnesses in the courtroom, including when conducting Ground Rules Hearings. 

Identifying communication issues

 

    Watch Professor Pamela Snow, Professor of Cognitive Psychology, La Trobe University, discuss identifying communication issues with vulnerable witnesses. Watch the video in full – or use the markers to go straight to what’s most relevant to you.

    Download Professor Snow’s slides.

    Please refer to the supporting materials sections below for additional resources.


    Watch an expert judicial panel and Professor Snow discuss communication issues with vulnerable witnesses, including precautions judicial officers can take, and formulating questions for witnesses.

    Ground Rules Hearings

     

    Watch ‘How to conduct a Ground Rules Hearing’ with and without an intermediary, including directions regarding questioning. Watch the video in full – or use the markers to go straight to what’s most relevant to you.

    Please refer to the supporting materials sections below. 

    Managing the questioning of vulnerable witnesses

     

    Watch the video in full – or use the markers to go straight to what’s most relevant to you:

    •    Best practice when an intermediary IS present: Parts 1 & 2.
    •    Best practice when an intermediary IS NOT present: Part 3.

    Please refer to the supporting materials sections below. 

    Supporting materials: Legislation, court guides and key resources

    Legislation

    Part 8.2A of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 governs the use of Ground Rules Hearings and intermediaries.

    Multi-jurisdictional Court Guide and Uniform Evidence Manual

    The Multi-jurisdictional Court Guide for the Intermediary Pilot Program provides practical information on working with intermediaries and conducting a Ground Rules Hearing, including directions. 

    For an outline of overarching principles for questioning witnesses, as well as discussion of issues such as developmental milestones, and sample scripts to use, refer to Child Witnesses: Testing Competency and Questioning – A Practical Guide.

    Court resources

    Magistrates’ Court of Victoria 

    Case notes

    Ward v The Queen (on the judge’s role and counsel’s obligations in relation to child witnesses)

    Supporting materials: Visual aids, fact sheets and articles

    Intermediary Assessment Report and visual aids

    This sample Intermediary Assessment Report illustrates the type of important information that might be included about a witness’s communication needs. It refers to these visual aids:

    The Ground Rules Hearing video refers to these resources.

    Fact sheets on communication

    These fact sheets explain common issues and will give you strategies to communicate with vulnerable witnesses. They were prepared by the Intermediaries Pilot Program, Department of Justice and Community Safety in 2020:

    These fact sheets from the Child Witness Service, Victoria, will help you to communicate with child witnesses and obtain quality evidence from children of all ages and abilities:

    Links

    Articles