What is Witness Familiarisation?
Witness familiarisation is part of the process of assisting a witness who is to provide oral evidence (also known as testimony) at court, arbitration hearings or inquiries. Often called witness training courses, witness familiarisation training courses are part of the broader witness preparation process used to help prepare witnesses to give evidence during cross examination.
Witness familiarisation is an educational and training process which helps the witness provide their trial evidence most effectively. It does this through specially designed courses which explain to witnesses what to expect when providing their evidence, and provide strategies, tips and mechanisms as to how to do this. The specialist courses also seek to practically apply these learnings through a series of rigorous mock cross examinations of the witness. In this way witness familiarisation courses help a witness overcome the nerves, stress and pressure of trial and cross examination, and to deal with the nuances and hurdles faced by those providing evidence in the courtroom.
Loquitur’s witness familiarisation training is available to expert witness and witnesses of fact (lay witnesses) who will be providing their evidence in person. The witness training provided has an emphasis on practical methods of providing evidence while in the witness box and provides an opportunity to apply those steps during repeated mock cross-examinations. Courses are specifically tailored to expert witnesses and factual witnesses.
The training courses are available to all witnesses who will be giving testimony and training is available for all types of legal forums: Court trials, arbitrations and tribunals, commissions of inquiry and investigations, and other legal (and quasi-legal) hearings.
Witness familiarisation training is available to any witnesses who will be providing testimony under cross examination. It is available to law firms and solicitors for their clients and witnesses, direct to companies and other organisations whose staff will provide witness evidence, and to members of professional bodies and organisations who regularly, or are likely to, provide evidence in court. We are able to provide training courses direct to potential witnesses, or via their company, employer, organisation or solicitors / legal team.
With specialist barrister-trainers based in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra, Loquitur is readily able to offer witness familiarisation courses in all of these cities. In-person courses can also be arranged by appointment throughout NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT and other Australian states and territories, and abroad. Virtual courses can also be arranged.
Witness familiarisation is best practice for hearings in similar Common Law jurisdictions, such as in England & Wales. It is also commonly conducted by lawyers and attorneys in the US, albeit with slightly different ethical boundaries compared to the English law (and Australian law) model. However, it is a recent addition to the Australian legal landscape, and Loquitur has been instrumental in bringing this innovative concept to Australia.
What it is not: Witness Coaching
Such courses allow a witness’ solicitors and barristers time to focus on the issues and procedure relevant to the hearing, while allowing for additional and rigorous preparation of the witness without the risk of unethical witness coaching by the legal team.
What it is not: Witness proofing
Witness familiarisation complements, rather than replaces, the witness proofing process by the solicitor or barrister. It allows witnesses to undergo a series of detailed, exacting and rigorous simulated cross examination in addition to the witness proofing by their legal team, without the risk (either real or perceived) of witness coaching.
How is witness familiarisation different from unethical witness coaching?