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68 N. Ir. Legal Q. 451 (2017)
Non-Verbal Victims in the Adversarial Criminal Process: Communication, Competency, and Credibility

handle is hein.journals/nilq68 and id is 467 raw text is: 

NILQ 68(4): 451-68

Non-verbal victims in the adversarial criminal

       process: communication, competency,

                                and credibility

                                   JONATHAN DOAK

             Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University


                                     LAURAN DOAK

          Sheffield  Institute  of  Education, Sheffield Hallam University

Research consistently shows that persons with learning disabilities are more likely to be victims of cime. For
such victims, engaging with the riminaljustice system ma/y be fraught with djficulties given the expectation
that victims should normai articulate verbal and with fluency both their testimony and their views on
issues pertaining to the justice process itself Grounded in the princefle of oraliy and often likened to a
sjstem of gladiatorial combat, adversarialjustice systems have a poor track record of hearing the voices of
victims of crime who have learning disabilities. However, recent jears have witnessed an attitudinal shift
towards meeting the needs of victims who require communication support; with legal and policy reforms
introduced across multefle jurisdictions designed to enable more effective partic pation in the justice process.
Augmentative and  alternative communication could constitute an important support mechanism to enable
and empower victims of crime who would struggle to express themselves verbally in the courtroom; yet these
alternative forms of voice are alien to the oral tradition and sit uneasily within the prioriy traditionally
afforded to adversarial questioning techniques.
Keywords: victims; witnesses; disabilities; communication; competency; credibility;
augmentative   and alternative communication


T here is   a growing  corpus of  literature documenting  the specific difficulties experienced
     by victims with learning disabilities within the criminal process.1 Disabled persons are
at a considerably higher risk of victirnisation generally, and disability hate crime and sexual
offences  in particular.2 They are often highly dependent   on  paid or farmily caregivers for
assistance in multiple domains   including managing   personal  finances, personal  (intimate)
care and  social care which may  create opportunities  for abusers; and people  with learning

1   See e.g. Jessica Jones, 'Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in the Criminal justice System: Review of Issues'
    (2007) 51 International journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 723; Shane Kilcommins
    et al, An Internalional Review of Legal Provisions and Supportsjor People with Disabilies as Victims of Crme (Irish
    Council of Civil Liberties 2014); Chih Hoong Sin et al, DisabledPeople  Expeiences of Targeted violence and Hosilit
    (Equality and Human Rights Commission 2009).
2   See e.g. Lisa Jones et al, 'Prevalence and Risk of Violence against Children with Disabilities: A Systematic
    Review and Meta-analysis of Observational Studies' (2012) 380 The Lancet 899; Sue Ralph et al, 'Disability
    Hate Crime: Persecuted for Difference' (2016) 43(3) British journal of Special Education 215.

NILQ  winter 2017

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