For example heaton armstrong a practising barrister

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For example, Heaton-Armstrong, a practising barrister, describes the “typical courtroom scenario” in which a witness is asked whether they signed a declaration that their statement was true and correct and is then asked “to explain the inconsistency between oral evidence and statement”. In such instances the reliability of the witness and the accuracy of the statement are put into a strange relationship. In the midst of this, enthusiasm for the written document is unlikely to be tempered by consideration of the possibility that the statement does not neatly stand for the witness’ words, that it does not neatly encapsulate the context of its production for all time. The text becomes extremely powerful, a phenomenon not exclusive to legal texts: The vesting of meaning in … permanent or semi-permanent forms is routine and commonplace, and has transformed our relation to language, meaning and each
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other. Texts speak in the absence of speakers; meaning is detached from local contexts of interpretation. … In the distinctive formation of social organisation mediated by texts, their capacity to transcend the essentially transitory character of social processes and to remain uniform across separate and diverse local settings is key to their peculiar force. Smith (1990:210–211) Witness statements are taken within specific contexts and using specific processes of production. For example, when statements are taken, certain techniques may be used, such as cognitive interviewing and certain social contexts pertain, such as pre-ordained power relationships. When statements are used, however these contexts and processes of production are rarely mentioned, for example juries are not typically urged to consider what questions might have been asked by a police officer during the taking of a statement. Disquiet about, and abuse of, statement-taking and statement-use led the Anglo-Welsh legal system to introduce audio- and video-recording of interviews with suspects and child witnesses/victims between 1986 and 1991 (Baldwin and Bedward, 1991:671, Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984). This has proved to be a valuable and successful safeguard for both police and suspects (Heaton-Armstrong and Wolchover, 1992:160), yet, even so statements with witnesses other than children are still rarely recorded. Written information, filtered from witnesses is given supremacy above spoken information directly from witnesses themselves. However, procedure may change in due course as concern about the standards of witness statements has led to experimental audio-recording initiatives throughout Britain (Milne and Shaw, 1999:130). In addition practical justifications for audio- or video-recording witness interviews have also emerged. An inquiry into shortcomings in the investigation of the racist murder of the London teenager, Stephen Lawrence, in April 1993, highlighted the possibility that interviewers may miss important facts which did not appear important at the time of initial interviews, but turned-out later to be crucial
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