Re C (Female Genital Mutilation and Forced Marriage: Fact Finding) [2019] EWHC 3449 (Fam)

Vulnerable witnesses Paragraphs 14-18 deal with "Assessing the Evidence of Vulnerable Witnesses", including the following: "Despite my very considerable sympathy for witnesses with significant vulnerabilities such as the mother in this case, my clear view is that there is one standard of proof which applies without modification irrespective of the characteristics of witnesses, including vulnerable witnesses to whom Part 3A and PD3AA apply. I observe that many vulnerable witnesses are just as likely as anyone else either to tell the truth or to lie deliberately or misunderstand events. It would be unfair and discriminatory to discount a witness's evidence because of their inherent vulnerabilities (including mental and cognitive disabilities) and it would be equally wrong in principle not to apply a rigorous analysis to a witness's evidence merely because they suffer from mental, cognitive or emotional difficulties. To do otherwise would, in effect, attenuate the standard of proof when applied to witnesses of fact with such vulnerabilities. ... Having said that, I offer the following observations, none of them particularly novel, which might assist in assessing the evidence of vulnerable witnesses, particularly those with learning disabilities. First, it is simplistic to conclude that the evidence of such a witness is inherently unreliable. Second, it is probably unfair to expect the same degree of verbal fluency and articulacy which one might expect in a witness without those problems. Third, it is important not to evaluate the evidence of such a witness on the basis of intuition which may or may not be unconsciously biased. Finally, it is important to take into account and make appropriate allowances for that witness's disability or vulnerability, assisted by any expert or other evidence available."

Notes

The judgment (at para 15) mentions Part 3A and PD3AA of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 entitled "Vulnerable Persons: Participation in Proceedings and Giving Evidence" which came into force on 27/11/17.

Judgment appeared on BAILII on 20/2/20.

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Full judgment: BAILII

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Date: 19/12/19🔍

Court: High Court (Family Division)🔍

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Published: 22/2/20 23:44

Cached: 2020-03-30 10:55:02