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Reported communication challenges for adult witnesses with intellectual disabilities giving evidence in court

Morrison, J., Bradshaw, J., Murphy, G. (2021) Reported communication challenges for adult witnesses with intellectual disabilities giving evidence in court. International Journal of Evidence and Proof, . ISSN 1365-7127. (doi:10.1177/13657127211031040) (KAR id:90288)


Communication plays a key role in a witness’s ability to give evidence and participate in the court process. Adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) can be negatively impacted by communication difficulties such as: limitations in recall abilities; suggestibility to leading questions; difficult question styles used by advocates; and unfamiliar language used within the court setting. Most research carried out on communication challenges for adults with ID, when giving evidence, has involved participants in psychology-based experimental methodology. In this study 19 court reports assessing actual witnesses (complainants and defendants) with ID, written by Registered Intermediaries in Northern Ireland, were analysed. A wide range of communication difficulties were identified for

the adult witnesses. Difficulties resulting from communication used by their communication partner (typically the advocate in a court setting) were also described. A rich model of the challenges for both partners, in giving evidence and in cross-examination, is presented, extending previous research. This study highlights the need for research within UK courts to assess: how witnesses with ID are being questioned; the effectiveness of changes made to the court process to enhance communication; the impact of the court process and environment on communication and alter�native question styles for advocates to use.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/13657127211031040
Uncontrolled keywords: communication, court, intellectual/learning disability, registered intermediary, vulnerable defendant, vulnerable witness
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Tizard
Depositing User: Jill Bradshaw
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2021 10:03 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2022 12:27 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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