Giving evidence by video-link

Introduction

Generally, a witness must be present in the courtroom to give oral evidence in Ireland. However, the Criminal Evidence Act 1992, sets out the rules for how evidence can be given by video-link in certain cases.

If you are giving evidence by video-link you don’t need to go into the courtroom. Instead you can sit in another room and give your evidence by live video-link. A television monitor is placed in the court, which transmits your image, and you have a television monitor in your room that transmits the image of what is happening in the courtroom.

The aim of video-link evidence is to make it easier for some witnesses to give evidence. The courtroom can be intimidating and some witnesses may find it difficult being in the same room as the accused.

Remote hearings and evidence during COVID-19

In light of the COVID-19 emergency and the importance of minimizing the exposure of people using the courts to unnecessary risk, the Courts Service of Ireland has been required to adapt its practices. One of the innovations which has been gradually introduced is for certain cases to be heard remotely or for certain witnesses to give evidence remotely.

Whether a case is suitable for remote hearing depends on the nature of the case, the parties involved and the availability of the suitable technology. For example, the Dublin District Court is now trialling the giving of certain evidence remotely in certain family and child law cases where both sides are legally represented and the court believes that giving evidence remotely is suitable.

However, jury trials of criminal matters have been temporarily suspended and no additional rules have been put in place for remote evidence in criminal matters. As a result, the rules stated below should still apply in full to those trials when they resume.

Rules

In criminal proceedings, there are certain situations where video-link evidence is acceptable, these include:

  • If the proceedings involve a sexual or violent offence, the victim and any other witness may be allowed to give their evidence by live video-link, if they are under 18 years of age, or for any other reason that the judge allows
  • If the judge thinks it is necessary to protect the victim from further victimisation, the victim can give evidence by live video-link

When a child gives evidence by live video-link, the judge and the barristers do not wear wigs or gowns in court. The judge can decide to let an intermediary (for example, a social worker) ask the witness questions. The questions should be asked in a way that is appropriate for the age and mental ability of the witness.

In civil proceedings there is a provision that allows people to give evidence by live video-link, including in cases where the witness is not in Ireland. This option is only possible if the facilities are available and the case is suitable.

Video-link evidence can also be allowed in civil cases about the welfare of a child or a person with a mental disability. The judge decides whether it is appropriate for the child or person with a mental disability to give evidence by video-link. The judge can also decide to let an intermediary ask the questions.

In certain circumstances, a physical screen or partition can be positioned in the courtroom, so the witness can their give evidence in the court without having to see the accused when doing so. This option is available at the judge’s discretion if the witness is under 18 and the proceedings are about a sexual or violent offence. This is done in order to protect the witness from secondary or repeat victimisation.

The judge and lawyers must be able to see and hear the evidence the witness is giving if a screen is used.

Further information

You should get legal advice for more detailed information. You can access detailed information on how to get legal advice and representation in court.




Page edited: 8 June 2020