Section 271C – Vulnerable witnesses other than child witnesses
19.This section sets out the requirements associated with an application for special measures to help an adult vulnerable witness give their evidence.
20.Under subsections (2) and (11) the party calling the witness must submit an application to the court and at the same time intimate it to the other parties at least 14 clear days before the trial, setting out which special measures are most appropriate. Where the witness has expressed a view then details of the witness’s view must be included in the application.
21.The court must consider the vulnerable witness application within 7 days of the application having been lodged. In the event that the court is satisfied that the witness is vulnerable and it is appropriate for them to use the special measure sought then the court can make an order granting the use of that measure for the vulnerable witness giving evidence. This order can be made in the absence of the parties. Subsections (5)(b) and (7) enable a hearing to be held in cases where the court is not satisfied and the parties are to be given an opportunity to address the court at this hearing. The court can also postpone the trial diet for this purpose. These hearings can be conjoined with an existing diet already set down for the case.
22.The court in deciding whether to make an order granting the use of a special measure for the witness must also give consideration to a number of factors set out in subsection (8). These factors are:
the possible effect on the witness if they are not allowed to use special measures;
whether there is a chance that they will be more able to give their evidence with special measures than without; and
the list of factors set out in the new section 271(2).
23.Subsection (4) allows the court to accept an application which has been made late.