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Witnesses Competence And Compellability Notes

BPTC Law Notes > Criminal Evidence Notes

This is an extract of our Witnesses Competence And Compellability document, which we sell as part of our Criminal Evidence Notes collection written by the top tier of City Law School students.

The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Criminal Evidence Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:



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 Understanding Questions Put & Giving Understandable Answers


When deciding, the court should consider Witness as having benefit of any available special measures


Witness does not need to be aware of status as a W - only to understand questions and give understandable answers.
* Infant who can only speak in baby-language: not competent
* Young child who can speak and understand basic English: competent


R v Sed - Do not require 100% comprehension/comprehensibility
* For Judge to determine question of competence, taking into account Witness' performance as a whole
* Consider whether there is a common comprehensible thread in answers
* If on critical matters the Witness can be intelligible - it is for the Jury to determine his reliability and cogency.

Child Witnesses


R v B - Additional guidelines on 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

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