Vulnerable witnesses

Vulnerable witnesses in the Criminal Justice System

Authored by: Michelle Aldridge

The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics

Print publication date:  March  2010
Online publication date:  March  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415463096
eBook ISBN: 9780203855607
Adobe ISBN: 9781136998737


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The aim of this chapter is to review the linguistic experiences of vulnerable witnesses within the Criminal Justice System. We focus on children and people with communication disabilities and examine how such witnesses cope linguistically with investigative police interviews and court appearances. By looking at the way police officers interview vulnerable witnesses and by analysing witnesses’ understanding of concepts and their ability to develop a narrative and answer questions, we will evaluate whether or not they are prejudiced linguistically. Focusing on court procedures – video-recorded interviews and special measures such as intermediaries and communication aids for the witness – we will assess whether enough is being done to enable these witnesses to tell their story. While we will concentrate on the system currently in operation in England and Wales, where appropriate we will compare this with how witnesses are interviewed and examined in other countries, in an attempt to determine what still needs to be done to achieve justice for all.

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