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Examples of Witnesses in Court

A Number of  high profile celebrities have been in court in recent times including Prince Harry, Coleen Rooney, Rebekah Vardy, Ed Sheeran, Boris Becker, Dizzie Rascal. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

Roman Abramovich (the Russian billionaire, once the owner of Chelsea FC) undertook a Witness Familiarisation course before he gave evidence in a High Court case brought by Boris Berezovsky. Some of the benefits of training for witnesses can be seen by looking at extracts from the Judgment of Mrs Justice Gloster in Berezovsky v Abramovich [2012] EWHC 2463 (Comm).

Para 119 “Mr. Abramovich indeed gave careful and thoughtful answers, which were focused on the specific issues about which he was being questioned. At all times, he was concerned to ensure that he understood the precise question, and the precise premise underlying the question which he was being asked…. it also reflected Mr. Abramovich’s responsible approach to giving answers which he could honestly support. Where he had relevant knowledge, he was able to give full and detailed answers; he took care to distinguish between his own knowledge, reconstructed assumptions and speculation.”

Para 122 “I found Mr. Abramovich to be frank in making concessions where they were due…”

Para 123 “In conclusion, I found Mr. Abramovich to be a truthful, and, on the whole, reliable witness.”

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The Bar Council – Witness Preparation 2023 (Extracts):

6 … arrangements to familiarise witnesses with the layout of the court, the likely sequence of events when the witness is giving evidence, and a balanced appraisal of the different responsibilities of the various participants (“witness familiarisation”). Such arrangements prevent witnesses from being disadvantaged by ignorance of the process or taken by surprise at the way in which it works, and so assist witnesses to give their best at the trial or hearing in question without any risk that their evidence may become anything other than the witnesses’ own uncontaminated evidence. As such, witness familiarisation arrangements are not only permissible; they are to be welcomed.

28. The following approach is suggested in relation to any witness familiarisation process for the purpose of civil proceedings:

28.1 Any witness familiarisation process should normally be supervised or conducted by a solicitor or barrister.

28.3 If a formal or structured witness familiarisation course or programme is to be conducted by an outside agency:

28.3.1 Records should be maintained of all those present and the identity of those responsible for the programme, whenever it takes place.

28.3.2 The programme should be retained, together with all the written material (or appropriate copies) used during the sessions.

28.3.3 None of the material used should bear any similarity whatever to the issues in the current or forthcoming civil proceedings in which the participants are or are likely to be witnesses.

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