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Witnesses Competence And Compellability Notes

BPTC Law Notes > BPTC Criminal Litigation Notes

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A more recent version of these Witnesses Competence And Compellability notes – written by City Law School students – is available here.

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WITNESSES: COMPETENCE AND COMPELLABILITY Rules:To be allowed to give evidence, a witness must be "competent"To be required to give evidence (eg. by a witness summons), a witness must be "compellable" Competence

Governed by Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 Presumption: All Witnesses are competent to give evidence (s53(1)) General Test - applied by Court when the Witness' competence is questioned (s53(3))A person is not competent to give evidence in criminal proceedings if it appears to the court that he is not a person who is able to: (a) understand the questions put to him as a W, and (b) give answers to them that can be understood

Questioning W's Competence s55(1) - Open to party/court of its own motion to question any Witness' competence s53(3) - That party must then satisfy the criteria (prove) on the balance of probabilities Child Witnesses
* Competence is Witness-specific - there should be no presumptions or preconceptions
* Witness does not need to be intelligible on every question
* It is a matter of judgement - age is a factor but decision concerns the individual Witness
* The witness' age not determinative of ability to give truthful/accurate evidence - credibility is an issue for the jury Expert evidence can be called on the issue of a Witness' competence Compellability Rule: All competent Ws are compellable Exceptions: The Defendant

1. Not competent as a Witness for the P (unless no longer 'a person charged' i.e. G plea, acquittal, nolle prosequi)if pleads G and gives evidence against co-D:
* Judge has discretion to exclude Defendant's evidence under s78 PACE/common-law, and

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