Communication and cross-examination in court for children and adults with intellectual disabilities: a systematic review

Joanne Morrison, Rachel Forrester-Jones, Jill Bradshaw, Glynis Murphy

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10 Citations (SciVal)
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Courts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have identified children and adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) as vulnerable witnesses. The call from the English Court of Appeal is for advocates to adjust questioning during cross-examination according to individual needs. This review systematically examined previous empirical studies with the aim of delineating the particular communication needs of children and adults with ID during cross-examination. Studies utilising experimental methodology similar to examination/cross-examination processes, or which assessed the communication of actual cross-examinations in court were included. A range of communication challenges were highlighted, including: suggestibility to leading questions and negative feedback; acquiescence; accuracy; memory and understanding of court language. In addition, a number of influencing factors were identified, including: age; IQ level; question styles used. This review highlights the need for further research using cross-examination methodology and live practice, that take into consideration the impact on communication of the unique environment and situation of the cross-examination process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-398
Number of pages33
JournalThe International Journal of Evidence and Proof
Issue number4
Early online date3 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Communication
  • court
  • cross-examination
  • intellectual disability
  • learning difficulties
  • learning disability
  • vulnerable defendant
  • vulnerable witness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law


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