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This requirement may make it particularly difficult for children and other vulnerable witnesses to testify. Witnesses must testify fully and candidly and to help them do that, Crown may apply to the judge for the use of one or more testimonial accommodations.
One such testimonial accommodation is a special screen constructed in such a way that through it the witness cannot see the accused but the accused can see the witness. The court can also order the witness to testify from another room using closed circuit television, again permitting the accused to see the witness without the witness seeing the accused. In cases where the accused is representing him or herself, the judge may appoint another lawyer to cross examine the witness on behalf of the accused.
Additional assistance, such as the presence of a support person or various other aids, may be necessary for child witnesses or witnesses with mental or physical disabilities.
Depending on the age of the witness and the type of offence, Crown counsel may have to call evidence about the difficulties a witness might have in testifying fully without the use of a testimonial accommodation.
If you or someone you are helping is a witness who may need special help to testify, be sure to tell Crown counsel or the police as soon as possible so there will be enough time for Crown to apply to the court. Testimonial accommodations are not automatically available. They must be requested.
Before a preliminary hearing or a trial, Crown counsel will try to contact victims of sexual offences and the parents of children or youth witnesses to discuss what testimonial accommodations may be needed. Crown may not always know of witnesses with special needs, so if you are a witness who will need special assistance or you are aware of someone who may have difficulty testifying, please let Crown know as soon as possible.