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Giving evidence at inquest: a well prepared witness

This film provides an illustrative scenario of what a well prepared witness looks like.

The purpose of this film is to demonstrate how it feels for a clinician to present evidence in the court, covering typical questions legal representatives may ask. When viewing the film, focus on how the questions flow between the advocate and the witness. The clinical scenario used to frame the questioning is for illustrative purposes – the principles for giving evidence are the same regardless of the precise facts or the speciality of the witness. While this film does not refer to the deceased by name, in reality the deceased’s name would be used by the Coroner, witnesses and any advocates. One of the aims is to dispel any possible preconceptions about the role of the coroner, and to explain how best a witness can help the coroner and the family of the patient.

Each film explains the role of the coroner’s court and giving evidence from different perspectives.

Key principles highlighted in the content are:

  • The importance of giving a full straightforward factual account, not speculating or guessing
  • Reading your statement before court and taking this with you
  • Asking for clarification if you do not understand the question
  • Redirecting or declining questions that you are unable to answer (e.g. questions that are outside of your professional expertise)
  • Familiarising yourself with medical records before court and any investigations or serious incident reports (including any action plans)
  • Adding ‘post it’ notes to key areas in the medical records so that you can find them when you are giving evidence
  • Liaising and seeking support from your legal team and line management
  • Addressing your answers to the Coroner
  • Speaking slowly, sharing the story of what happened logically from beginning to end in plain English
  • Giving the full, honest answer, however difficult this may feel
  • Be aware of when and how interested persons can ask questions
  • Understand the order in which questions are asked: Coroner, family and, finally, the health organisation’s appointed lawyer.

The purpose of these three films is to share insights about inquests, they are intended to be used as a stand-alone product by those called to be a witness as well as integrated as a part of full inquest training package. We hope they will support all staff working in the NHS who are called to give evidence, so that they can prepare well following the death of a patient in their care

You can see the other two films in the series here:

A guide, including frequently asked questions, is available to review.

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