Vulnerable Witnesses and Cross-Examination: A Path to Reform

Jeff Ward

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Cross-examination is considered an integral aspect of the adversarial trial process and of the accused’s right to a fair trial. However, there has been insufficient attention in Ireland on the detrimental impact that it can have on the ability of vulnerable witnesses to give their best possible evidence. This article proposes that cross-examination should be reformed to better accommodate the unique needs of vulnerable witnesses. It outlines a working definition of who is a vulnerable witness and then demonstrates that, by analysing the Irish and European case law, the right to cross-examine does not prevent reform. Finally, it makes limited proposals for the reform of the manner in which cross-examination is conducted in Ireland.

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