Directive Leading Questions and Preparation Technique Effects on Witness Accuracy

Georgina Gous, Jacqueline M. Wheatcroft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of leading questions during cross-examination can undermine the accuracy and completeness of evidence presented in court. Furthermore, increasing numbers of general witnesses are arriving in court unprepared for the experience. In this study, 60 mock witnesses from England and Wales were allocated to one of the three preparation conditions: (a) those who received no familiarization with the cross-examination process, (b) those who received a guidance booklet on cross-examination procedures, and (c) those who underwent an alternative rapport-building protocol. The participants observed a hit-and-run scenario video clip before being cross-examined with either (a) non-directive leading questions or (b) directive leading questions. The results showed that directive leading questioning styles were most detrimental to witness accuracy. Neither familiarization with the types of questions typically employed during cross-examination nor the rapport-building protocol were found to be effective as a preparation strategy to increase accurate responses compared against a control group. Consideration of the impact of directive leading question styles on all witnesses in court seems necessary.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSAGE Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


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