Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Really Tough Decision

In a murder trial currently taking place, a witness has refused to give evidence. Here is the BBC report.
This case is sub judice, so I shall keep my remarks general, and I shall be merciless with any comments that even approach the particular.
Way down on the lower rungs of the judicial ladder there are many of us who are familiar with the reluctant witness (most often in Domestic Violence cases) who declines, for whatever reason, to testify, even when , as happened to colleagues of mine this week, they have been compelled to attend by a witness summons, and are actually in the witness suite in the court. If the witness remains adamant, then there is nothing the court can realistically do - after all it would be monstrous to punish a victim of assault for refusal to talk about it, thus making her (and it usually is a her) a victim twice over.
There are scores of reasons why someone refuses to give evidence, from loyalty to family or friends all the way up to the terror of becoming branded as a grass, or even real fear of violent retribution.
So I sympathise with the trial judge in the current case, and I am quietly relieved that it is he not I who has to deal with a refusenik witness.

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