Criminal Lawyers SydneyWhat Does Leading Mean in Court

September 13, 20220

If you’ve ever been to court, you’ve probably heard the term “leading.” But what does it mean? Leading is a type of question that can be asked during cross-examination. It’s a question that suggests an answer, or that leading is a way to get the witness to agree with the questioner’s version of events. Leading questions are generally not allowed during direct examination, but they are allowed during cross-examination. If you’re an unrepresented party, you should be aware of the types of questions that may be considered leading, so you can object if necessary. In this article, we’ll present a brief overview of leading questions and how they’re used in court.

What Does Leading Mean in Court Proceedings?

A leading question is any question that suggests the answer. An example might be, “Isn’t it true that the defendant was speeding in the parking lot?” The word “true” in this question suggests that the defendant was speeding, and suggests that the witness should agree, even though the question hasn’t been answered. When a question is leading, and you are the witness, it can be very tempting to answer it, but don’t do so if the question is objected to. Wait for a ruling from the judge.

When are Leading Questions Permitted?

what is leading in courtLeading questions are not permitted because they can be used to influence a witness’s evidence, and be unfair to the other side. There are several situations when a judge may allow leading questions, including where the witness is a child; where the witness is mentally disabled; and where the other party does not object to the question. In this instance, the other party may have been asked in advance whether they will object, and the questions are usually of a type that cover matters that are not directly related to anything that is in issue in the case.

Judges may allow leading questions for witnesses who are children or mentally disabled, but only under certain circumstances. For example, a child witness might not have the same ability as an adult to understand the difference between fact and opinion. Another example might be a witness who is mentally disabled, such as someone with a low IQ. In these situations, the judge may allow leading questions to help the witness better understand the question being asked, and respond appropriately.

Examples of Leading Questions

Let’s look at some examples of leading questions and their purpose.

leading questionsA prosecutor might ask, “Isn’t it true that the defendant was speeding?” This question is leading because it suggests the answer that the prosecutor is seeking in order to prove the prosecution case. Let’s say a witness says he saw a truck drive into a car. A prosecutor might ask, “Didn’t that truck push the car into a nearby tree?” This question is leading, because it suggests that the truck pushed the car into the tree. A defence lawyer might ask, “When the police came to your house, didn’t they ask about your friend’s truck?” This question is also leading as it is formulated to elicit an answer that the lawyer wants to hear.

Another example of a leading question is, after a police officer gives evidence that the defendant was driving below the speed limit, but had a frantic look on his face and failed to signal a turn. The defence lawyer asks, “The defendant’s vehicle was headed in the direction of the hospital emergency department, wasn’t it?”, which suggests that the defendant had a frantic look on his face because he was driving towards a hospital due to an emergency situation.

Say a witness gives evidence that “The defendant was wearing a green shirt when I last saw him.” The defence lawyer then asks, “Isn’t it true that he was wearing a black shirt when you last saw him?”, which suggests that the witness is wrong.

A witness testifies that the defendant was holding a knife when he was attacked. The defence lawyer asks, “Isn’t it true that the defendant drew the knife out after he was attacked?” which suggests that the witness is wrong, and further that the defendant may have drawn the knife in order to defend himself.

As you can see from these examples, leading questions are often used to suggest that a witness is wrong, confused, or lying.

Example of Non Leading Questions

A question such as: “Where were you on 2 June at around 8.30 p.m.?” It’s open-ended, and allows the witness to give a full explanation. “What were you doing there?” is another non leading question.

How to Object to a Leading Question

If you’re a defendant (or other party) representing yourself and you think a question asked by the prosecutor (or other party) is leading, you should object. Let the judge know that you think the question is leading, and that it’s unfair to you. You can do this by saying, “I object, Your Honor.” You don’t have to use the word “leading” in your objection, but you should explain that you think the question suggests an answer and is unfair. The judge may ask the questioner to rephrase the question in a way that’s not leading.  If you’re the person asking the question, and an objection is made which the judge allows, you should try to rephrase your question to make it non-leading. For example, if the prosecutor objects to your question about the witness speeding, you might rephrase your question to ask, “What speed were you driving at when you drove into the parking lot?”

Need Help?
Don’t be confused by leading questions in Court – if you’ve been charged with any type of offence, Criminal Lawyers Sydney and Suburbs can appear for you – call (02) 9533 2269

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