Welcome Guest! The IOSH forums are a free resource to both members and non-members. Login or register to use them

Postings made by forum users are personal opinions. IOSH is not responsible for the content or accuracy of any of the information contained in forum postings. Please carefully consider any advice you receive.

Notification

Icon
Error

Options
Go to last post Go to first unread
firesafety101  
#1 Posted : 16 May 2024 11:43:32(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
firesafety101

HI,  I'm sure there are a few allowed alternatives for people who need to give evidence in Court, not necessarity criminal cases but maybe Coroner's Court and others.

Does anyone know what those alternatives are?

Thanks.

peter gotch  
#2 Posted : 16 May 2024 16:15:49(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
peter gotch

Hi firesafety

"Special measures" might be provided depending on how and why someone is either "vulnerable" or "disabled".

As a starting point you could look here.

Check if you can get special measures in court - Citizens Advice

firesafety101  
#3 Posted : 16 May 2024 17:21:50(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
firesafety101

Hi Peter,  I've done some research and find the Judge is required to provide the alternative to assist anyone giving evidence to use alternative ways, similar to the Equality Act but not quite the same.

Now I know that, I can research and put pressure on the university for them to provide the means of giving evidence under Equality Act.

This is about my daughter and her desire to study for her degree in Forensic Science.  They have told us that she has to do a presentation to the other students and then a Mock Trial when she gives evidence in a Court setting.

She is unable to talk to people she doesn't know, (Selective Mutism).  They have said she will have to do it or fail the course.  That cannot be right because the Equality Act requires Reasonable Adjustments and in my opinion if the Judge will allow for the adjustments so should the Uni.

Selective Mutism (SM) is not a simple disablity and does not allow simple solutions.  It is easy to say she could write notes in the witness box and pass them to another person to speak on her behalf but SM will not allow her to do that as she sees it as communicating with people she does not know.

Yet another complicated issue for us to deal with and to work with the UNI for the solution.

Thanks Peter.

Acorns  
#4 Posted : 16 May 2024 21:26:28(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Acorns

Contact the court services, explain the issue and see what they say for their specific court. I’d be surprised if the notification to attend didn’t give some contact details
Roundtuit  
#5 Posted : 17 May 2024 07:43:36(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Roundtuit

I suspect that reasonable adjustment may still be an issue for an expert forensic witness. There is the distinct possibility of cross-examination during criminal trial and a need for explanation to the lay person of what has been presented at either court.

In a one on one situation a coroner may be sympathetic, in front of a jury it could play for the defence by undermining the credibility of the witness and the case for the prosecution.

One of my staff held a degree in forensics and made two comments about their time during interview - "it wasn't like the telly", "the mock court experience put them off" - great scientist, embarrased public speaker.

It may be prudent to see if someone at the Crown Prosecution Service could offer additional advice.

Roundtuit  
#6 Posted : 17 May 2024 07:43:36(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Roundtuit

I suspect that reasonable adjustment may still be an issue for an expert forensic witness. There is the distinct possibility of cross-examination during criminal trial and a need for explanation to the lay person of what has been presented at either court.

In a one on one situation a coroner may be sympathetic, in front of a jury it could play for the defence by undermining the credibility of the witness and the case for the prosecution.

One of my staff held a degree in forensics and made two comments about their time during interview - "it wasn't like the telly", "the mock court experience put them off" - great scientist, embarrased public speaker.

It may be prudent to see if someone at the Crown Prosecution Service could offer additional advice.

firesafety101  
#7 Posted : 17 May 2024 11:00:03(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
firesafety101

Thank for the responses.

I contacted a few courts yesterday and they said they haven't come across this so have no information.There is a allowance for a Pre Hearing meeting with Judge, Barristers and the Witness to arrange a plan.  That could involve questions requiring Yes/No answers or other short answers, a Carer alongside in the Witness box to answer on behalf of the witness, White Boards, pre written answers on cards etc. etc.

This is for my daughter who is determined to try hard to speak because she knows how much better life will be if she can.

Thanks.

Edited by user 17 May 2024 11:01:23(UTC)  | Reason: post got scrambled

HSSnail  
#8 Posted : 20 May 2024 07:26:29(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
HSSnail

Firesafety - well done for your daughter trying to overcome these challenges - but please do not assume that coroners court is any easier than an other court. From my time as an inspector i would much rather face a determined barrister that an grieving family in coroners court! At least a barrister knows the rules of engagement and a judge will make them stick to it. In coroners court anyone can ask you questions on your evidence, remember the family will be probably be desperately looking for answers and may ask some very strange questions, which to some extent the coroners will allow out of fairness to the family. I remember one case where i had found no fault by the employer where the deceased cousin spent 15 minutes asking me all kinds of questions relating to his brothers previous employment, why i had not got transcripts of his mobile phone conversations and all kinds of strange questions, before the inquest was adjourned to allow the coroner to call more witnesses. Can your daughter answer questions from behind a screen or does that still bring on the mutism? 

While the equality act does say reasonable adjustments should be made, this cannot overide the rights of the accused ect in court, which includes them being able to question any evidance presented.

thanks 4 users thanked HSSnail for this useful post.
A Kurdziel on 20/05/2024(UTC), Roundtuit on 20/05/2024(UTC), peter gotch on 20/05/2024(UTC), MikeKelly on 21/05/2024(UTC)
A Kurdziel  
#9 Posted : 20 May 2024 08:23:08(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
A Kurdziel

I agree with Mr Snail: the issue is that she will be working as an expert witness not as the usual witness of fact. There are rules to protect witnesses of fact and  they are supported to enable them to tell the court what they saw. Expert witnesses are there to give an opinion based on their professional knowledge.  The barristers are fully entitled to challenge that in cross examination. UK courts do not simply  take expert evidence face value unless the witness is a join expert agreed by both parties.  

thanks 2 users thanked A Kurdziel for this useful post.
peter gotch on 20/05/2024(UTC), MikeKelly on 21/05/2024(UTC)
achrn  
#10 Posted : 20 May 2024 13:23:23(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
achrn

Originally Posted by: A Kurdziel Go to Quoted Post

the issue is that she will be working as an expert witness 

I would dispute that - it seems to me unlikely that every graduate of a Forensic Science degree works as an expert witness in court.  A university insisting that the degree is useless unless you're willing to be cross-examined by a barrister is being unreasonably inflexible, in my opinion.   

The notion that you can't do any related role unless you're 'barrister ready' is laughable.

A Kurdziel  
#11 Posted : 20 May 2024 13:38:37(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
A Kurdziel

Any material handled by a forensics scientists has to go through a chain of custody. This is recorded and everyone has to sign for it. This is to ensure that it is not tampered with, or nobody makes a mistake while processing the material. Newly graduated forensic scientists will at some point be expected to handle the material; that’s their job. Any lawyer will appreciate that mistakes can be made, or material tampered with. They may try to challenge the procedures in the lab, and they may well ask the people in that chain of custody what they did with the material. This would be in court under cross examination.    

HSSnail  
#12 Posted : 20 May 2024 13:46:31(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
HSSnail

I think both my colleges above make valid points - yes im sure there are roles that do not require you to attend court - but they will be few and far between once you start handling evidence on your own. I remember early on in my enforcement carrier being called to the witness stand to describe how i had delivered official documentation for a colleague - even though i knew nothing about the case. Its much easier to get a case dismissed because of a fault in procedure than on the evidence collected. In this case i had delivered it correctly and my colleague won his case!

thanks 1 user thanked HSSnail for this useful post.
A Kurdziel on 20/05/2024(UTC)
peter gotch  
#13 Posted : 20 May 2024 13:50:31(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
peter gotch

EDIT - some of what I typed below is similar to what had been said in posts submitted whilst I was typing! 

I could see many scenarios where a practising forensic scientist might be called to give evidence on the facts (including their analysis of the evidence) often not presented as an "Expert".

So, as example, the road traffic accident occurs and the police breathalyse the driver.

The forensic scientist analyses the sample and finds that the alcohol in blood level was X.

No need for an Expert Witness if the law says that the limit is X divided by 10, if established practice says that using equipment A in the prescribed manner leaves little margin of error on the results.

Conversely, the forensic scientist analyses the sample and finds that the level of some solvent in blood level is Y. There is no tablet of legal stone which says what level of that solvent in blood counts as impairing the driver from being safe at the wheel. 

So, at that point you need an Expert who can comment on what Y solvent in blood means in terms of capacity to drive safely.

Either way, that person might be subject to cross-examination when in the witness box, so the issue here is what would count as "reasonable adjustments".

It might well be that the role the graduate of Forensic Science means that actually they are never likely to end up in the witness box.

But the University can't predict what their student's future employment will be, so should be preparing them for likely career patterns which are often likely to include standing up in a Courtroom.

Edited by user 20 May 2024 13:54:54(UTC)  | Reason: Clarification

thanks 2 users thanked peter gotch for this useful post.
A Kurdziel on 21/05/2024(UTC), MikeKelly on 21/05/2024(UTC)
A Kurdziel  
#14 Posted : 20 May 2024 13:53:40(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
A Kurdziel

I can also add that the criteria for the course are probably not down to the university or college, but are  down to the requirements of the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences, who accredit forensic science courses.  

achrn  
#15 Posted : 20 May 2024 14:08:54(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
achrn

Originally Posted by: peter gotch Go to Quoted Post

But the University can't predict what their student's future employment will be, so should be preparing them for likely career patterns which are often likely to include standing up in a Courtroom.


That seems to me an invalid argument.  Universities are not expected to prepare graduates of their courses for every possible application of that degree.  It's precisely because the university can't predict that the student will be working as a cross-examined expert witness that they should not be making it a requisite of passing the course that you can withstand cross-examination.  

achrn  
#16 Posted : 20 May 2024 14:19:16(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
achrn

Originally Posted by: A Kurdziel Go to Quoted Post

I can also add that the criteria for the course are probably not down to the university or college, but are  down to the requirements of the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences, who accredit forensic science courses.  


That's a very good point.  

https://www.csofs.org/quality-standards/educational-standards/accreditation-is-it-for-me/ has the degree course Educational Quality Standards documentation.  The requirements for Interpretation, Evaluation & Presentation of Evidence under communication (item 9) says "Realistic court room exercises should ideally be in-person and include a jury. This may include court room exercises both as professional witness and expert witness Exception may be made for students with disabilities provided that such students are given an appropriate alternative opportunity to demonstrate these skills." (my emphasis).

I'd be asking the university why they are not making an exception given that the chartered society that presumably accredits the course identifies that it can be appropriate to do so.

Edited by user 20 May 2024 14:19:49(UTC)  | Reason: spilling

thanks 2 users thanked achrn for this useful post.
HSSnail on 20/05/2024(UTC), firesafety101 on 21/05/2024(UTC)
HSSnail  
#17 Posted : 20 May 2024 14:22:50(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
HSSnail


  Universities are not expected to prepare graduates of their courses for every possible application of that degree.  It's precisely because the university can't predict that the student will be working as a cross-examined expert witness that they should not be making it a requisite of passing the course that you can withstand cross-examination.  

No but they do quote the contents of a course and pass fail criteria. I have just googled a couple of courses and where i could find course details it included witness preparation. Not sure what the pass criteria was. For my degree we got a mark based on 4 elements, written exam, practical exam, a set project we all had to complete separately  and our individual dissertations, but if you failed any single element that was it. You couldnot pass on other 3 alone.

sorry i must have been typing my response at the same time as Achrn - so it does look like its worth asking the question of the Uni.

Edited by user 20 May 2024 15:19:26(UTC)  | Reason: Typing at same time as another poster

Acorns  
#18 Posted : 20 May 2024 20:16:20(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Acorns

Originally Posted by: firesafety101 Go to Quoted Post
Thank for the responses.I contacted a few courts yesterday and they said they haven't come across this so have no information.There is aallowance for a Pre Hearing meeting with Judge, Barristers and the Witness to arrange a plan. That could involve questions requiring Yes/No answers or other short answers, a Carer alongside in the Witness box to answer on behalf of the witness, White Boards, pre written answers on cards etc. etc.
This is for my daughter who is determined to try hard to speak because she knows how much better life will be if she can.Thanks.


As has been said above, amazed a Uni demands ability to public speaking is part of a course. As you know it’s a very long way between passing a course and being sufficiently competent to give expert evidence. Depending on what are she is looking towards after the course - forensic scientists is a generic phrase rather than for a specific subject. She will
Be looking for a company to work for to gain experience, perhaps she can do some of the role that way and no be an ‘expert witness.
Having been in the E/witness role, it would certainly be a challenge when being questioned / challenged about what she would have to say, getting instructed would be the sooner hurdle than actually being in court
firesafety101  
#19 Posted : 21 May 2024 10:37:41(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
firesafety101

Brilliant replies thank you all.

We attended Merseyside Police SOC department and were shown around the Lab where real forensic work was carried out.  We were told every change of evidence work required a change of gloves to avoid cross contanination.  There was one forensic guy working on fingerprints and chemicals on sheets of paper.  I lost count of the number of times he changed his gloves.  Every single time has to be documented.

There wa a case thrown out of court because a Barrister noticed gloves hadn't been documented as changed just once when they should have been.

thanks 2 users thanked firesafety101 for this useful post.
A Kurdziel on 21/05/2024(UTC), peter gotch on 21/05/2024(UTC)
firesafety101  
#20 Posted : 31 May 2024 09:38:33(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
firesafety101

Hi, for update, email received from University as follows.  The course can be adjusted but courtroom setting must be questioned by Prosecution and defence council who will be staff.  In front of a Judge, also staff.

The Courtroom setting in year 3 will be based on her Crime Scene examination and Laboratory findings.

Her course is Forensic Biology and they say if the above is not suitable you may wish to study Archiology only.

That opens up another door, leading to Equality Act and discrimination.

My daughtern has said she is determined to force herself to speak before her oral presentations are due.

Users browsing this topic
You cannot post new topics in this forum.
You cannot reply to topics in this forum.
You cannot delete your posts in this forum.
You cannot edit your posts in this forum.
You cannot create polls in this forum.
You cannot vote in polls in this forum.