iProbono worked with members of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) and the faculty of the National Law University, Delhi (NLU Delhi) to deliver the inaugural Justice J.S. Verma Human Rights Advocacy Programme on Vulnerable Witness Handling in November. The programme that included training for students and practicing lawyers, addressed key gaps in legal education in India with a focus on effective litigation of sexual abuse cases.
Over six days, experts from the UK and India worked closely with law students from different parts of India on how to effectively and sensitively examine vulnerable witnesses, when prosecuting and defending allegations of sexual and gender-based violence. A refresher course on relevant domestic and international law was followed by advocacy training exercises, detailed consideration of ethical issues arising when handling vulnerable witnesses in sensitive cases, best practice in cross-examination and pre-trial preparation of vulnerable witnesses. Sessions were led by Indian law professors and practicing advocates as well as British lawyers and experts: Kirsty Brimelow QC, Head of Doughty Street Chamber’s International Human Rights Team, Jodie Blackstock, Treasurer of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and Legal Director of UK NGO JUSTICE, and Catherine O’Neill, Speech and Language Therapist and Chair of UK charity Intermediaries for Justice. Students also had the opportunity to interact with well-known Indian leaders in the field including Indira Jaising and Prashant Bhushan.
During the intensive course, lively demonstrations and role-play based on case studies of child sexual assault prepared by iProbono enhanced the students’ practical legal advocacy skills. During the role-play exercise of questioning witnesses during the trial, the students engaged with and were given individual feedback from the British lawyers, Kirsty and Jodie and iProbono’s legal team. A visit to the Dwarka District Court gave students a holistic insight into court infrastructure including the vulnerable witness complex. At the end of the course, the students applied their new skills and knowledge in Mock Trials where they were assigned roles to practice both prosecution and defence advocacy skills. The trials were judged by Justice B.S. Chauhan and Kamini Jaiswal.
“We gained a remarkable experience through this training course. The most enriching part of the course was that we were being practically taught the principle techniques required in cases involving Vulnerable Witnesses under the guidance of the prominent lawyers in the UK and iProbono advocates. The entire 6-day training session was truly worth it and a great learning experience for me.” – Shalini A. Jha, B.A. LL.B. student, Kamla Nehru Institute (Faculty of Law), Faridipur campus, U.P
“The students were bright and confident. They were eager to learn and approached us whenever they had any doubts about the applicability of the knowledge they obtained during the workshop, to the Indian context.” – Ankita Goswami, Program Analyst, iProbono.
Priya Watwani – Program Analyst, iProbono