Responding to communication needs in the justice system


The Advocate’s Gateway includes a list of publications and other resources relevant to responses to vulnerable witnesses and defendants. Items under each subheading are listed in date order (most recent first). This information is not a substitute for obtaining appropriate legal advice nor is it a substitute for thorough legal research.


Judicial Protocol update: Expedition of Cases Involving Witnesses Under 10 Years

The protocol is a commitment by the police, CPS and HMCTS to carry out their respective functions so as to expedite trials for very young witnesses. The target timetables repeat those which have already been used in the section 28 pilot courts for duties which need to be performed prior to a hearing. 'Very young witnesses' are defined on an age-related only basis, that is, children under the age of 10.  Those children who are deemed appropriate for pre-recorded cross-examination.(currently only available in the pilot courts) will be covered by the section 28 procedure, i.e., their evidence should be expedited but the trials in which their evidence is heard will not.   

High Court of Justiciary Practice Note (No. 1 of 2017) Taking of evidence of a vulnerable witness by a Commissioner

The Practice Note provides extensive new guidelines for the process of “taking evidence by a Commissioner” (where a witness’ examination and cross-examination is recorded in advance of a trial). This will help reduce further the need for vulnerable witnesses to give evidence in person in court.

The Crown Court Compendium May 2016 - Judicial College

This compendium provides guidance for Crown Court Judges and Recorders on jury and trial management, summing up and sentencing.

Registered Intermediary Procedure (England and Wales) December 2015

The Registered Intermediary Procedural Guidance Manual (2015) London: Ministry of Justice

This procedure guidance manual (PGM) replaces the previous version from 2012 with immediate effect. The working life of this PGM is iterative and updates to it will be made to reflect developments in procedures and best practice, relevant developments in the criminal justice system and in legislation that relates to the Witness Intermediary Scheme (WIS). As such, it will only be available electronically.

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime October 2015

This code sets out the services that must be provided to victims of crime by Organisations in England and Wales.

Meeting the Needs of Vulnerable Clients – The Law Society Practice Note July 2015

The Law Society has published guidance for Solicitors which is intended as good practice in this area and to help them meet the needs of vulnerable clients. The guidance is complemented by an easy read guide for clients. It includes how to identify a vulnerable client, their needs, and how to communicate with them more effectively. It also addresses issues relating to mental capacity and work with third parties.

Explanatory Memorandum To The Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2015 No.13(L.1)

These Rules amend the Criminal Procedure Rules 2014,S.I. 2014 No.1610, including adding rules to provide for 'ground rules hearings' and rules to require advance notice if further evidence is introduced on an appeal to the Crown Court from a Magistrates' court.

Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) in Child Sexual Abuse Cases

The Joint Inspection into Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) in Child Sexual Abuse Cases was carried out by both HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) and by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

Teacher Misconduct: Information for Teachers

This sets out departmental advice for teachers who may be subject to the disciplinary procedures for the regulation of the teaching profession. The guidance uses the principals set out in the report produced by the ATC in 2011 Raising the Bar: The Handling of Vulnerable Witnesses, Victims and Defendants in Court that should be adopted when questioning child and vulnerable witnesses.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), an executive agency of DfE, operates as the regulator of the teaching profession on behalf of the Secretary of State.

The guidance can be found here.

The Witness Charter

This sets out the standards of care for witnesses to a crime or incident in the criminal justice system in England and Wales. The Charter can be found here.

Victim's Code

This Code sets out the services to be provided to victims of criminal conduct by criminal justice organisations in England and Wales. The code can be found here.

Criminal Practice Directions

Criminal Practice Directions October 2015

Guide to the Criminal Practice Directions October 2015

Criminal Practice Directions July 2014

Criminal Practice Directions October 2013

CPS Guidance

CPS Guidance on Prosecuting CSE October 2013.

Police Interview Procedure for Victims and Witnesses (Northern Ireland)

Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings Guidance on interviewing victims and witnesses, the use of special measures and the provision of pre-trial therapy (2012) Belfast: DoJ/ CJSNI 

Good Practice in Achieving Best Evidence Interview with Child Witnesses in Northern Ireland – Criminal Justice Perspectives Dec 2015

Follow this link to find the report from Dr Lisa Bunting, Dr Nicola Carr, Dr David Hayes and James Marshall

Registered Intermediary Procedure (Northern Ireland) 

The Registered Intermediaries Procedural Guidance Manual (Northern Ireland) (2012) Belfast: DoJ

Registered Intermediary Procedure (England and Wales) 

Registered Intermediary Procedural Guidance Manual (2012) London: Ministry of Justice 

Family Justice Council Guidelines

Family Justice Council Guidelines in relation to children giving evidence in family proceedings (2011)


The Rt. Hon. The Lord Judge, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (2013) Half a Century of Change: The Evidence of Child Victims. Toulmin Lecture in Law and Psychiatry, King's College, University of London.

Rt. Hon. Dominic Grieve QC (2011) Justice or ordeal: supporting and treating children fairly through the trial process, The Barnardos’ Lecture.  

The Rt. Hon. The Lord Judge, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (2011) Vulnerable witnesses in the Administration of Criminal Justice, 17th Australian Institute of Judicial Administration.


Please note that subscriptions may be required in order to gain access to some of the following articles.


S Fairclough (2016) ‘It doesn’t happen … and I’ve never thought it was necessary for it to happen’
Barriers to vulnerable defendants giving evidence by live link in crown court trials, The International Journal of Evidence and Proof, October 2016.

G Geddes (2016) The Price of Justice: Can you hear me at the back? 
This article is published by Family Law (an imprint of Jordan Publishing, owned by LexisNexis) and appears in July Family Law at [2016] Fam Law 833

R Ewin (2016) The Vulnerable and Intimidated Witness: a study of the Special Measure Practitioner, Journal of Applied Psychology and Social Science, 2 (1), 12-40

B O'Mahony, J Creaton, K Smith & R Milne (2016), Developing a professional identity in a new work environment: the views of defendant intermediaries working in the criminal courts, Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 18 Iss 2 pp. 155 - 166


L Hunting (2015) New and updated toolkits at The Advocate's Gateway, Family Law Journal December 2015

P Cooper and J Grace (2015) Vulnerable patients going to court: a psychiatrist's guide to special measures, British Journal of Psychiatry Bulletin Vol 39 Issue 6 December 2015

P Cooper (2015) Blogging - not so different from squirreling on skeles, Counsel August 2015

P Cooper (2015) Vulnerable witnesses and children: final report signals the beginning of changes, Family Law Journal May 2015, 562-564

P Cooper (2015) Have you seen the View? Toolkit 13 Vulnerable Witnesses and Parties in the Family Courts


P Cooper (2014) 'Ticketing talk gets serious' Counsel Magazine November 2014, 24-25

S O'Rourke (2014) 'Access to:Rights and fit to plead' British Deaf News, September 2014

P Cooper (2014) 'Speaking when they are spoken to: hearing vulnerable witnesses in care proceedings' Child and Family Law Quarterly 2014, 26 (2):132-151

P Cooper (2014) 'Bowler As Well As Umpire' Counsel Magazine June 2014, 11-12

A Glassbrook (2014) 'Supporting The Legal Profession' Counsel Magazine May 2014, 24-26

E Laws (2014) 'Incompetent competency hearings' Counsel Magazine April 2014, 28-30

P Cooper (2014) 'Lacking Empathy: Asperger Syndrome and the Criminal Justice System' The Writ, The Journal Of The Law Society Of Northern Ireland 2014, 220, 4-7

P Cooper and D Wurtzel (2014) ‘Better the second time around? Department of Justice Registered Intermediaries Schemes and lessons from England and Wales, Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly 2014 65 (1): 39–61

C Baksi (2014) Family system 'woefully behind' in treatment of vulnerable The Law Society Gazette August 2014

E Henderson (2014) ‘All the proper protections - the Court of Appeal rewrites the rules for the cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses’,  Criminal Law Review 2014, 2, 93-108

L Hoyano (2014) ‘What is Balanced on the Scales of Justice? In Search of the Essence of the Right to a Fair Trial’ [2014] Criminal Law Review 2014, 1, 4-29

P Cooper (2014) ‘Questioning vulnerable witnesses: Why The Advocate’s Gateway is essential’ The Writ, Winter 2013/2014, 14 – 15

J Jacobson, G Hunter & A Kirby (March 2014) 'Supporting Fair and Respectful Treatment of Witnesses', A research-based briefing from the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birbeck, University of London

J Jacobson, G Hunter & A Kirby (2014) 'Supporting the Effective Participation of Defendants in Court Proceedings', A research-based briefing from the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birbeck, University of London

J Plotnikoff and R Woolfson (2014) 'Coming Soon to a Courtroom Near You', Counsel

R Handa and S Tyler (2014) “Let's see how we get on" or the need for regulated provision of registered witness intermediaries in family proceedings’ Family Law (Jan) 75-80

J Plotnikoff and R Woolfson (2014) 'Questioning Vulnerable Witnesses: Navigating New Requirements', Law Society Advocacy Update

P Cooper (2014) 'Remote Control' New Law Journal, 164(7589)

Monica Stevenson and Helen Valley (2014) Pre-recorded Cross-Examination Criminal Law & Justice Weekly, 2014 Vol.178 May 24

The Huffington Post: Cross Examination of Vulnerable Witnesses Is a Necessary Evil, June 2014

The Times: Cross-examination is a Necessary Evil, June 2014


P Cooper & J Plotnikoff (2013) 'The Advocate's Gateway: New Guidance on Questioning Witnesses and Defendants' Blackstone's Criminal Practice Quarterly Update, Summer

P Cooper (2013) 'The Family Advocate's Gateway to Best Practice for Vulnerable Witnesses' Family Law, 43

P Cooper (2013) 'Witness Competency Hearings - a Test of Competence', Criminal Bar Quarterly, 2013(2)

D Wurtzel & P Cooper (2013) Making it Meaningful – 'How to Ensure the Effective Participation of Vulnerable Defendants in a Trial', Counsel

P Cooper (2013) 'Re-writing the Victims' Code' Counsel

L Mc Cormick (2013) 'A Civil Question' New Law Journal

J Plotnikoff & R Woolfson (2013) 'The Light Bulb Moment', Judicial College Tribunals Summer Journal

P Cooper (2013) 'Face Value: Seeing & Believing?', Counsel

P Cooper (2013) 'Advocate’s Gateway to Best Practice for Vulnerable Witnesses', Family Law (Nov)

J McEwan (2013) 'Vulnerable Defendants and the Fairness of Trials', Criminal Law Review, No. 2, 100-113

R Marchant (2013) ‘How Young is Too Young? The evidence of children under five in the English Criminal justice system’. Child Abuse Review

P Cooper (2013) ‘The umbrella condition – the legal issues for suspects and defendants with Asperger Syndrome’, Criminal Bar Quarterly, Spring 2013, Issue 1, 8-10

P Cooper and D Wurtzel (2013) ‘A day late and a dollar short: in search of an intermediary scheme for vulnerable defendants in England and Wales’, Criminal Law Review, 1, 4 – 22 

BBC News: Barrister criticised for calling child abuse victim 'predatory', August 2013

The Times: Child abuse victims get handpicked trial judges, August 2013

Guardian: Lawyers' treatment of gang grooming victims prompts call for reform, May 2013

Kingston University Media Alert: Pre-trial cross-examination for vulnerable ‘under consideration,’ says Attorney General at website launch, April 2013


Rachel Zajac, Sarah O'Neil, Harlene Hayne (2012) 'Disorder in the courtroom? Child witnesses under cross-examination', Developmental Review 32 181-204

S H AL- Rawashdeh, H A Tarawneh and A M Hayajneh (2012) 'The Treatment of Vulnerable and Intimidated Witnesses in the English Criminal Justice System', European Journal of Social Sciences, Vol.33 No.1, 52-88

P Cooper and D Wurtzel (2012) ‘Sometimes it’s better to go second: Ten years of Registered Intermediaries in England and Wales and how Northern Ireland could benefit’. (Presented at the NI CBA Annual Conference, 12 May 2012) 

A Keane (2012) ‘Towards a principled approach to the cross- examination of vulnerable witnesses’, Criminal Law Review, 407-420 


S Krahenbuhl (2011) ‘Effective and appropriate communication with children in legal proceedings according to lawyers and intermediaries’, Child Abuse Review, 20, 407-420

J Gregory and K Bryan (2011) ‘Speech and language therapy intervention with a group of persistent and prolific young offenders in a non-custodial setting with previously undiagnosed speech, language and communication difficulties’, International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, Vol. 46, No. 2, 202–215

P Cooper (2011) ‘Child Witnesses in Family Proceedings: Should Intermediaries be Showing Us the Way?’, Family Law, 41, April 2011, 397 – 403

A Brammer and P Cooper (2011) 'Still Waiting for a Meeting of Minds: Child Witnesses in the Criminal and Family Justice Systems', Criminal Law Review, Issue 12, 925 – 941 

P Cooper (2011) ‘ABE Interviews, Children’s Testimony and Hearing the Voice of the Child in Family Cases: Are we Barking up the Right Tree?’, 23 – 31, Thorpe LJ and Tyzack  (Eds), Dear David: A Memo to the Norgrove Committee from the Dartington Conference 2011, Bristol: Jordans 

B O’Mahony, K Smith and B Milne (2011) 'The early identification of vulnerable witnesses prior to an investigative interview', The British Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol 13, 114-123

D Wurtzel (2011) 'Advocacy Focus' Counsel Magazine January 2011, 40-42

B Cheema and S Perry (2011) 'Treading carefully' Counsel Magazine January 20144, 37-38


D Walsh and R Bull (2010) ‘What really is effective in interviews with suspects? A study comparing interviewing skills against interviewing outcomes’, Legal and Criminological Psychology, 15, 305–321

D Wurtzel (2010) 'Bar Conference 2010' Counsel Magazine 2010, 15-21

L Ellison and J Wheatcroft (2010) 'Could you ask me that in a different way please? Exploring the impact of courtroom questioning and witness familiarisation on adult witness accuracy', Criminal Law Review, Issue 11, 823-839

A Keane (2010) ‘Cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses – towards a blueprint for professionalisation’, International Journal of Evidence and Proof, 16, 2 (175), 181 – 186

R Bull (2010) ‘The investigative interviewing of children and other vulnerable witnesses: Psychological research and working/professional practice’, Legal and Criminal Psychology, 15, 5–23


B O’Mahony (2009) ‘The emerging role of the Registered Intermediary with the vulnerable witness and offender: facilitating communication with the police and members of the judiciary’, The British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 38, 232-237


P Cooper & L Hunting (Eds.)(2016) Addressing Vulnerability in Justice Systems, Wildy, Simmonds & Hill Publishing

P Rook and R Ward (2016) Sexual Offences Law & Practice 5th Edition, Sweet & Maxwell

G Geddes and R Budworth (2016) The Single Family Court: A Practitioner’s Handbook, Wildy, Simmonds & Hill Publishing

Plotnikoff and Woolfson (2015) Intermediaries in the criminal justice system, improving communication for vulnerable witnesses and defendants, Policy Press

L Cuthbert (2015) 365 Daily Advocacy Tips, Bloomsbury Professional

Ridley, Gabbert and Lamb (2013) Suggestibility in Legal Contexts, Wiley-Blackwell

Spencer and Lamb (eds) (2012) Children and Cross Examination:  Time to Change the Rules?, Hart Publishing

Bornstein and Lamb (2011) Cognitive Development: An Advanced Textbook, Psychological Press

Lamb, LaRooy, Malloy and Katz (2011) Children’s Testimony, A Handbook of Psychological Research and Forensic Practice, Wiley-Blackwell

Hostettler (2006) Fighting for Justice The History and Origins of the Adversarial Trial, Waterside Press

Heaton-Armstrong, Shepherd, Gudjonsson and Wolchover (2006) Witness Testimony:  Psychological, Investigative and Evidential Perspectives, Oxford University Press

Graffam Walker PhD (2005) Handbook on Questioning Children, A Linguistic Perspective, American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law

Ellison (2002) The Adversarial Process and the Vulnerable Witness, Oxford University Press

J Spencer and R Flinn (1990) The Evidence of Children The Law and Psychology, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press


L Series, P Fennell & J Doughty (February 2017) The Participation of P in Welfare Cases in the Court of Protection, Cardiff University & The Nuffield Foundation.

This report considers the participation of P – an individual who is alleged to lack mental capacity – in proceedings concerning his health, welfare or deprivation of liberty in the Court of Protection (CoP) under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA).

The Law Commission Report (Law Com No 364) Unfitness to Plead sets out recommendations to modernise the test for unfitness to plead, bringing it into line with today’s psychiatric and psychological thinking. The new test would ask whether the defendant is able to participate effectively in their trial. At present, unfitness to plead provisions do not apply in the magistrates and youth courts.

Follow this link for the full report and draft legislation (Law Com No 364 -January 2016)
A summary of the report is also available.

Guidelines for communicating rights to non-native speakers of English in Australia,England and Wales, and the USA November 2015

This research has been led by Dr Diana Eades and Aneta Pavlenko, convenors of the Communication of Rights group which is an international body of linguists, psychologists, legal experts and Interpreters. The purpose of these guidelines, is to articulate recommendations for the wording and communication of the rights and cautions to non-native speakers of English.

Judiciary of England and Wales (2015) Report of the Vulnerable Witnesses & Children Working Group February 2015

The Rt Hon Sir Brian Leveson (2015) Review of Efficiency in Criminal Proceedings,The Judiciary of England and Wales

Children & Vulnerable Witnesses & Ors WG headed by Hayden J and Russell J (2014) Interim Report of the Children and Vulnerable Witnesses Working Group 31st July 2014, Courts and Tribunals Judiciary

Professor P Cooper (2014) Highs and Lows: The 4th Intermediary Survey, Kingston University London

Ministry of Justice (March 2014) Report on Review of Ways to Reduce Distress of Victims in Trials of Sexual Violence

H Brown (2014) The death of Mrs A - A Serious Case ReviewKingston Upon Thames: Surrey County Council Safeguarding Adults Board

Criminal Justice Joint Inspection (January 2014), A Joint Inspection of the Treatment of Offenders with Learning Disabilities within the Criminal Justice System - Phase 1 from Arrest to Sentence, HMI Probation, HMI Constabulary, HM Crown Prosecution Inspectorate & the Care Quality Commission

J Plotnikoff (2014), A More Flexible Approach to Vulnerable Witnesses and Defendants, Judicial College Serious Sex Offences Seminar

B Pettitt et al (2013), At risk, yet dismissed The criminal victimisation of people with mental health problems, MIND

P Swift et al (2013), What happens when people with learning disabilities need advice about the law?, The Norah Fry Research Centre

B O'Mahony (2013), How do intermediaries experience their role in facilitating communication for vulnerable defendants?, Professional doctorate, University of Portsmouth

E Henderson and F Seymour (2013), Expert Witnesses Under Examination in the New Zealand Criminal and Family Courts, the New Zealand Law Foundation and the University of Auckland

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (2012), The use of special measures in the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland, Belfast: CJINI 

J Plotnikoff and R Woolfson (2011), Registered Intermediaries in Action: Messages for the CJS from the Witness Intermediary Scheme SmartSite, London: Ministry of Justice and NSPCC

P Cooper (2011), Tell Me What’s Happening 3: Registered Intermediary Survey, London: City University London

Advocacy Training Council (2011) Raising the Bar: the Handling of Vulnerable Witnesses, Victims and Defendants in Court, London

E Davies, K Hanna, E Henderson and L Hand (2011), Questioning Child Witnesses - Exploring the benefits and risks of intermediary models, Institute of Public Policy, AUT University

Crown Prosecution Service, Bar Council and Law Society (2010), Achieving justice for victims and witnesses with mental distress

M Maguire (2010), Not a Marginal Issue: Mental health and the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland: CJINI

J Plotnikoff and R Woolfson (2009), Measuring up? Evaluating Implementation of Government commitments to young witnesses in criminal proceedings, NSPCC and The Nuffield Foundation

J Plotnikoff and R Woolfson (2007), The Go-Between:  evaluation of intermediary pathfinder projects

Videos/ DVDs

A Question of Practice (2013) Criminal Bar Association

Three Way Street - Putting children at the centre of three way communication (2009), Triangle

Giving Evidence:  what’s it really like? (2000, reprinted 2004), NSPCC and Childline working in partnership.  

A Case for Special Measures (2003) Bar Council and NSPCC with accompanying material.

A Case for Balance (1997, reprinted 2003) NSPCC. 

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