So says recent research
Researchers from the law and psychology departments of the Universities of Leeds and Liverpool, respectively, have conducted an empirical study looking at the impact of witness familiarisation on those who give evidence in court.
Qualified barristers cross-examined adult participants recruited from the community about a crime (shown to the participants on video), in the context of a mock courtroom. Certain of the participants received witness familiarisation information before they were cross-examined. The results were summarised by the researchers as:
- Prepared witnesses were significantly more likely than their unprepared counterparts to provide correct responses to cross-examination questions.
- Prepared witnesses were additionally more likely to seek clarification during cross-examination.
- Prepared witnesses were typically appreciative of the guidance they received prior to questioning.
This research is timely given the courts’ endorsement of the practice of witness familiarisation (see R v Momodou  2 All ER 571 in which the court approved the right of barristers to prepare witnesses for the experience of giving evidence).
The researchers stated that:
… participants reported that the guidance had usefully told them “what to expect” during cross-examination. Some respondents suggested that the guidance had helped them to answer questions more effectively with one participant stating, “It explained how the questions could or would be asked and therefore made them easier to answer”. Other participants indicated the guidance had given them the self-assurance to “speak up” and ask for help when they needed it.