Vulnerable Witnesses Could Be Given Greater Protection in Civil Courts

Responses to a report from the Civil Justice Council (CJC) setting out proposed measures to better support and protect vulnerable witnesses and parties in civil proceedings are due to be considered following public consultation.

The CJC wants to ensure 'a sufficiently proactive and consistent approach to enabling the proper participation in civil litigation of those who are, or may become through involvement in the process, vulnerable'. Its report considers vulnerable parties and witnesses in all types of civil litigation, but was spurred by a recommendation coming out of an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse.

According to the report, while there are no data specifying the number of vulnerable parties or witnesses who appear before the civil courts across the full range of jurisdictions and types of case, 25 per cent of claimants who answered a civil court user survey considered themselves to have a physical or mental condition.

Recommendations within the report include enhancing the training of civil judges in relation to issues of vulnerability and ensuring all staff from Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service who handle civil cases are given adequate training to help them identify, communicate with and assist vulnerable court users.

Following the consultation closing date (11 October 2019), the CJC is due to publish a summary of the responses and a final report.