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Judicial intervention in court cases involving witnesses with and without learning disabilities

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

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  • C M E O'Kelly
  • M R Kebbell
  • C Hatton
  • S D Johnson
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>09/2003
<mark>Journal</mark>Legal and Criminological Psychology
Volume8
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)229-240
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Purpose. This paper outlines the extent and nature of judicial interventions in court cases involving witnesses with learning disabilities and from the general population.

Method. Court transcripts, mainly concerning serious sexual crime, were obtained from a total of 32 witnesses, 16 involving people with learning disabilities and 16 involving people from the general population. Each intervention made by a judge was documented and coded into one of three categories: interactions with witnesses, interactions with lawyers, and interactions with the jury.

Results. No significant differences were found between the judicial treatment of witnesses with learning disabilities and those from the general population. In particular, judges did not intervene more frequently to simplify lawyers' questions, call breaks, suggest methods by which a witness could reply, ask lawyers to simplify their questions, prevent oppression of the witness and move the lawyer on, and ensure the witness could understand the question.

Conclusions. The implications of the findings are that judges should intervene, as they are legally entitled, to ensure that witnesses with and without learning disabilities give the most complete and accurate evidence possible.