New guidance on stammering for judges

27th April 2021

Guidance on accommodating people who stammer has been given to judges at courts and tribunals in the UK.

Having to speak in court is daunting. For those who stammer, the prospect can seem particularly grim. There's a danger that common behaviours like switching words, saying very little, involuntary movements or losing eye contact can be mistaken as a sign of guilt, uncertainty, evasiveness or nervousness.  

That's why we worked with the Courts & Tribunals Judiciary last year to include stammering in the Equal Treatment Bench Book. This resource, given to every judge in the UK, helps the judiciary understand the different circumstances and needs of people appearing in courts and tribunals.

The 2021 edition now includes a chapter on what stammering is, how a stammer may affect the way some people come across, and how behaviours may be misinterpreted. There's practical guidance to help make the court experience easier for defendants and witnesses who stammer.

Mandatory reading for employers & educators too

Jane Powell, STAMMA CEO says:

"We are delighted that this information has been published in the 2021 edition of the Bench Book and circulated to judges and staff in the legal system. It is vital if the courts are to avoid miscarriages of justice, and it can help those in the court system to gain a better understanding of stammering. It will benefit those who stammer and ensure better verdicts.

'The advice for the judiciary is also relevant for employers and those in education. It is all too easy to misunderstand the behaviours, the body language of those who stammer. It is also easy for those who don't stammer to dismiss the concerns of those who, for the most part, can hide their stammer, and assume that no consideration need be given here."

Download the Equal Treatment Bench Book 2021 edition below (updated in April 23), with the stammering guidance on pages 445-449.

Read our section The Law for more information on legal issues for people who stammer.

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