Witnesses – evidence in Court

September 23, 2019

In most cases it is necessary for witnesses to give live evidence in Court.  However, there may be reasons as to why that is not possible.  The prosecution will often use the rules relating to witnesses who cannot be available to give live evidence in the context of evidence of police officers.  But the rules relating to witnesses who cannot give live evidence apply equally to defence witnesses. 

The rules allow for evidence to be given via live video link in certain situations – subject to the agreement of the Court.  The rules do not allow a defendant to give evidence via video link, but the range of Court hearings to which the rules apply includes Crown Court trials and most other types of hearing. 

The real anomaly here is the fact that there are no provisions for defendant’s to be able to give evidence remotely – for example, in the context of a minor road traffic offence alleged to have been committed hundreds of miles from his home. There may even be examples where it may be in the interests of justice for a court to be able to receive material by telephone.  What is clear is that the rules relating to evidence being given by witnesses by live video link were developed before most of the technology we have in place now was properly tested and its benefits fully understood.   It may be time to re-visit this.

For now, other than for defendants, the Court may direct that evidence be given by witnesses by live video link, but only provided it is satisfied that it is in the interests of the efficient or effective administration of justice for the person concerned to give evidence in the proceedings in this way.  This will be considered in light of the availability of the witness, the need for the witness to attend in person, the importance of the witness’s evidence to the proceedings, the views of the witness, the suitability of the facilities at the place where the witness would give evidence through a live link and whether a direction might tend to inhibit any party to the proceedings from effectively testing the witness’s evidence.

In some cases, applications for evidence to be given via live link are not appropriate, and we will strenuously object. Where it is in our client’s interest to make such an application, we will ensure that a reasoned and strongly supported application is advanced.

How we can assist

If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, then get in touch with us at tuckers@tuckerssolicitors.com or on 0845 200 3367 and let us help. We can advise on all aspects of your case.