Vulnerable witnesses in the administration of criminal justice

|Speeches|Lord Judge

Speech by the Lord Chief Justice

“This speech represents the personal views of the judge and does not necessarily represent those of the judiciary as a whole.”

“One of the great advantages of the common law system created in Anglo Saxon England, a tiny island off the coast of Europe, but now a system which works world wide, is that it is a flexible system, capable of steady adaptation to the needs of contemporary society and technological or scientific developments. Each of our societies is, of course, different and developing in different ways and at different speeds. Be all that as it may, the common law does not belong to any one country. It is not owned by England. It belongs to you in Australia as it does to me in England. We can learn a good deal from each other. And there is, I believe, a remarkable level of mutual respect and admiration among the judges in each of our countries, and the willingness to learn from the experiences of others.

“Perhaps we should start by identifying those who are vulnerable witnesses, or at least potentially vulnerable witnesses, not as a matter of statute, but as a matter of reality.

“First, children – all children – each and every child.

“Second, victims of crime, but particularly victims of sexual crime, and certainly sometimes victims of and witnesses to serious violent crime.

“Third, a group which is becoming increasingly apparent, those who for whatever reason lack communication skills.

“Fourth, others of course, not least those about whom ignorant myths may still persist..”

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