Although pivotal for fact finding, taking evidence from witnesses is a costly business and results could be more useful.
Witness evidence is often an important source of information for courts. In some instances, it is the only available evidence, upon which the court can establish facts. As a result, witness evidence, in the form of testimonies, is an indispensable part of the judicial process and the search for the truth. But current practices of organizing and taking witness testimonies are excessively expensive and prone to practical difficulties. They do not always deliver enough useful information either. Isn't there a more effective way of doing this?
Time consuming, exhausting and expensive
Though different jurisdictions encounter this problem on a different scale, the costs and other impracticalities, associated with hearing witnesses, are common problems for courts around the globe. A number of different factors typically play a role. First, organizing the taking of witness evidence can cause significant difficulties. Testifying can be a physical and emotional strain on a witnesses. In some instances the witnesses will need to travel far from their homes to give their testimony. Second, if these practical concerns are overcome, the process of actually taking their testimony in open court is a time-consuming task. This also requires the presence of judges, lawyers, interpreters, stenographers and potentially others.
In international courts and elsewhere ...
This problem is of particular concern in procedures before international courts and tribunals, such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where costs associated with such a day in court can easily amount to more to $10.000 per hour. These courts hear high profile cases related to acts committed around the world. Securing testimonies in those cases generates even higher costs than in national cases as witnesses must typically travel from around the globe. With proceedings often lasting several years, costs sky-rocket, becoming a serious strain on the court's budget and, in turn, on countries that finance the international courts and tribunals.
More truth ... spending less
Finding a more effective way to take witness testimonies would benefit national and international court procedures, thereby contributing to the quest for truth and justice. Currently, courts try to take evidence from far away by using video conferencing. But the real cost savings may have to come from reducing the number of people involved in taking evidence, and improving the way of reporting. Streamlining the process of asking questions, giving answers and reporting can save time and make the information collected more useful. Deciding early on whether this witness will provide useful information, without denying a fair hearing, may be another element to look at.