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Until quite recently it was commonplace to describe the witness as the ""forgotten man"" in the criminal justice system. The last few years have seen a shift in thinking with an increasing recognition of the legitimate expectations and rights of witnesses within the criminal process.
At the same time research has drawn attention to a host of factors that conspire to deny the courts access to the best evidence potentially available when so-called vulnerable and intimidated witnesses are called upon to testify in accordance with conventional adversarial trial procedures and methods. The official response so far embodies an approach best described as one of accommodation. Efforts have centred on improving the treatment of witnesses within the established trial framework while preserving an overall commitment to key tenets of adversarial theory.
The latter include the principle of orality with its general insistence upon direct evidence and the use of cross-examination as a device for testing the credibility of witnesses.