Responding to communication needs in the justice system


The toolkits are copyrighted materials. Please refer to the terms of use

These toolkits provide advocates with general good practice guidance when preparing for trial in cases involving a witness or a defendant with communication needs.

Information about specific communication abilities and needs should always be sought from the individual witness or defendant, or their family/ support worker/ teachers etc.

“[TAG] toolkits represent best practice. Advocates should consult and follow the relevant guidance whenever they prepare to question a young or otherwise vulnerable witness or defendant. Judges may find it helpful to refer advocates to this material and to use the toolkits in case management.” Criminal Practice Directions [2015] EWCA Crim 1567, 3D.7.

“The Toolkits may be downloaded at no cost from the Advocates Gateway Website. They provide excellent practical guides and are to be commended. They have been endorsed by the Lord Chief Justice…as best practice.” R. v Lubemba[2014] EWCA Crim 2064, para. 40.

The report recommends that “…all advocates should be issued with ‘toolkits’ setting out common problems encountered when examining vulnerable witnesses and defendants, together with suggested solutions…”

Using the toolkits

Each toolkit contains the following statement "Questioning that contravenes principles for obtaining accurate information from a witness by exploiting his or her developmental limitations is not conducive to a fair trial and would contravene the Codes of Conduct".

The toolkits also provide:

  • links to source material
  • trial transcript questions, with suggestions about how they might be improved
  • highlighted examples of good practice and poor practice, and
  • lists of references, contributors and reviewers

Please note that if you intend to use The Advocate’s Gateway materials or toolkits in order to assist with communication needs, for anything other than personal, non-commercial use; you must obtain permission in advance from The Advocate’s Gateway.

Accessible (screen reader ready) word versions of all toolkits available on this page in pdf format can be provided upon request. Should you need such versions, please contact us via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Toolkits available to download

1Ground rules hearings and the fair treatment of vulnerable people in court
» Download PDF (0.3mb)

Ground rules hearing checklist
» Download PDF (0.3mb)

1aCase management when a witness or defendant is vulnerable
» Download PDF (0.7mb)

Essential questions checklist)
» Download PDF (0.4mb)

2General principles from research, policy and guidance: planning to question a vulnerable person or someone with communication needs
» Download PDF (0.7mb)

3Planning to question someone with an autism spectrum disorder including Asperger syndrome
» Download PDF (0.3mb)

4Planning to question someone with a learning disability
» Download PDF (1.2mb)

5Planning to question someone with ‘hidden’ disabilities: specific language impairment, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and AD(H)D
» Download PDF (1.3mb)

6Planning to question a child or young person
» Download PDF (1mb)

7Additional factors concerning children under 7 (or functioning at a very young age)
» Download PDF (1mb)

8Effective participation of young defendants
» Download PDF (0.7mb)

9Planning to question someone using a remote link
» Download PDF (0.3mb)

10Identifying vulnerability in witnesses and parties and making adjustments
» Download PDF (0.5mb)

11 Planning to question someone who is deaf
» Download PDF (0.9mb)

12 General principles when questioning witnesses and defendants with mental disorder. 
NB: This toolkit is currently under review, a revised version will be published in due course

13Vulnerable witnesses and parties in the family courts
» Download PDF (0.7mb)

14Using communication aids in the criminal justice system
» Download PDF (1.3mb)

15Witnesses and defendants with autism: memory and sensory issues
» Download PDF (0.7mb)

16Intermediaries: step by step
» Download PDF (0.5mb)

17Vulnerable witnesses and parties in the civil courts
» Download PDF (0.5mb)

18Working with traumatised witnesses, defendants and parties
NB: This toolkit is currently under review, a revised version will be published in due course


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