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  • Chegan SRM

Expert witness: RV TurnBull

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Witnesses can be incredibly useful sources for assisting investigations and piecing together unexplained cases. However, the flips-side is that witnesses can be notoriously unreliable or inconsistent with other perspectives.

If you find yourself in court giving evidence, it is possible that the defense barrister will attempt to discredit your evidence or put your witness testimony in some doubt about a persons identity.

In the famous case R v Turnbull and Camelo (1976), witnesses were called to give evidence at an armed robbers trial. These witnesses saw the robbery take place but their testimony was put to question by the defense, and many questions were asked:

• How far away from the defendant were you?

• If across the street was the road busy at that time of day?

• Could passing busses obscure your view?

• How long did you have him in sight for?

• Are you sure it was him?

• How can you be certain?

In summing up, the Judge informed the jury that there should be special need for caution when considering eye witness evidence and that a single witness can make mistakes, several witnesses are likely to paint a more realistic of events but they can still be mistaken.

Using the mnemonic ADVOKATE will help you remember details about key points you may be cross examined about.

• Amount of time under observation: How long did the witness have the person/incident in view?

• Distance: What was the distance between the witness and the person/incident?

• Visibility: What was the visibility at the time? In what light? Was it raining?

• Obstructions. Were there any obstructions to the view of the witness such as by-passing traffic, foliage, etc.?

• Known or seen before: Did the witness know, or had the witness ever seen, the person before? If so, where and when?

• Any reason to remember? - Did the witness have any special reason for remembering the person/incident? Was there something specific that made the person/incident memorable?

• Time lapse; How long has elapsed since the witness saw the person/incident? What time elapsed between the observation and the subsequent identification to the police?

• Error or material discrepancy: Are there any errors or material discrepancies between descriptions in the first and subsequent accounts of the witness?

This case was considered at the same time as two others that also hinged on evidence of identification. In this case all the information had been given and formed a satisfactory basis for a conviction. This case set a precedent and lawyers now use this it as a guide when cross examining witnesses when identification is in doubt.

A defense lawyer will want to:

• Shorten the time span the target was in your sight

• Extend the distance between you and the target

• Cloud your view

• Prove that the view was fully or partially obstructed for a short period of time

• Intimate a wrong identity

• Question your judgement and memory

• Put to you any any discrepancies, such as errors in your note book

• Put doubt in the minds of a jury

If you need an expert advice on how to prepare for a case Contact us.


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