This article highlights new
guidance now available and for use in family proceedings to enable vulnerable
witnesses to be able to participate effectively.
The article outlines ground-breaking
safeguarding measures employed in a care case in which the mother had serious physical,
learning and speech difficulties; her speech could not be interpreted by those
trying to understand her.
Two Ground Rules hearings lead to a complete
alteration of the way the fact-finding hearing was conducted to enable the
mother’s evidence to be understood: hearings were timed, examination was
re-modelled, and an intermediary developed and used communication tools to
accommodate the mother’s particular special needs.
Starting from an almost
blank canvass, the article sets out the novel safe-guarding procedures devised
from the combined advice of the jointly-instructed expert and the mother’s
These safeguarding measures
enabled the mother to move forward from her previously disempowered position of
not having been understood or listened to by the police and the courts, to
being able finally to describe her experiences after many years of serious
abuse of herself and her children.
article underlines the impact of the safeguarding measures employed on all who
took part, and the lessons learned from the process. The full version of this article appears in the August 2015 issue of Family Law.