Related Sector: Witness Familiarisation

After a fleeting appearance at King Charles’ coronation earlier this month, Prince Harry will be touching down on British soils again this month. However, this time he’s returning for the trial of his court case against the publisher of the Daily Mirror, the Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN). The lawsuit concerns articles published between 1996 and 2011, which feature information allegedly obtained through illegal means – phone hacking.

Prince Harry is one of a wider group of claimants suing MGN – other claimants include the estate of the late pop star George Michael and former Girls Aloud member Cheryl. But what makes this trial even more interesting is that the prince has been selected to give evidence on the stand. This will make him the first senior royal to give evidence in a courtroom since the 19th century.

As the UK’s leading provider of Witness Familiarisation training, we at Bond Solon will be reading the news reports of this trial with interest, particularly those dealing with Prince Harry’s performance on the stand. For whilst the prince may be well-versed in and comfortable giving television interviews, giving evidence in a court room is an entirely different experience, and one for which he will need to be thoroughly prepared.

We've highlighted some of the key differences below. 


Giving evidence in a formal and often traditional court room will be a daunting and unsettling experience for most people, not to mention someone who is used to the warm and friendly ambience of a broadcaster’s studio or Oprah Winfrey’s Garden. A TV interview with a Royal like Prince Harry is sought after by broadcasters, so inevitably he will hold the cards. He has significant influence to choose his interviewer, the scope of questioning, the location of the interview, who from his team is present, and if, for example he would like to be joined by his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

In contrast, giving evidence in court will not involve the same level of flexibility, even for someone like Prince Harry. The prince must be prepared to conform to all the presiding laws and procedures of the justice system, particularly with regards to witness evidence. He will be treated just like any other witness.


A televised interview with Prince Harry will involve a substantial amount of pre-planning with regards to the narrative of the interview, including topics that are permitted and those that are off limits. Even an ostensibly naturally occurring tangent must be prepared for as one of many possibilities. Timing is also relevant here – for example, having the flexibility as to when to push a specific agenda.

Within the justice system, however, the witness has no control over the questioning on the narrative of their evidence, as it will be dictated by and confined to the facts of the case. There may be personal matters that the witness is uncomfortable speaking about but if these form part of their evidence, the witness must be prepared to answer questions about them when cross-examined. It is also critical that a witness must only provide factual evidence – their opinion is irrelevant.   

In addition, a pre-recorded interview can be carefully edited so any slip ups or unintentional disclosures can be omitted. A witness in court will not have the same luxury.

Body language, appearance, and communication style

When it comes to body language, appearance and communication style, there is some overlap when it comes to preparation for televised interviews and giving evidence in court. Before any television appearance or media interview, Prince Harry will have been thoroughly briefed and advised to, for example:

  • Speak slowly and calmly.
  • Keep language simple and (try to) keep sentences short.
  • Make and hold eye contact, address the interviewer when answering questions.
  • Dress how you want to be perceived by your audience.
  • If necessary, you can interrupt the interviewer’s question.

Not so in cross-examination!

In televised interviews ‘’gotchya’’ questions are very rare (and would not be allowed by the prince anyway). It is in everyone’s best interest for the interview to go smoothly with good rapport between the interviewer and interviewee. However, where cross-examination is concerned, the “gotchya” questions, challenging the evidence and undermining the credibility of a witness is the ultimate goal of a barrister.

In addition, whilst being grilled does happen during televised interviews, most interviewees will be trained to ‘’block and bridge’’ – that is, block the question and bridge to the topic on which the interviewee wants to speak on in order to stay on message. Witnesses in court are not able to take advantage of this technique. If they are asked a question about their evidence, the onus is on them to answer that question – unless of course they do not know the answer. But if it is clear that they are holding something back or not being honest in their response, this is going to be pursued relentlessly by opposing counsel.

Indeed, we at Bond Solon often must explain why a potential witness who has been “media trained” will not be properly equipped to deal with cross-examination, even where they have had experience of being grilled on the radio or television.


Every TV presenter or reporter will have tactics they use to help their interviewee feel comfortable and to encourage answers to specific questions. But as mentioned above, and unlike in a court setting, tactics will rarely be used to trip up or discredit an interviewee like the prince.

The cross-examiner, on the other hand, will use a variety of techniques (for example, asking repeat questions, using a tone of voice to apply pressure) to try to achieve one of the following objectives:

  • Attack or undermine a witness’ evidence (for example to make the witness inconsistent, mistaken etc.)
  • Attack or undermine a witness (for example to make the witness appear incompetent, difficult to deal with etc.)
  • Put forward their client’s alternative explanation (the “challenge”) of what happened (‘I put it to you…’)

Therefore, we hope for the prince’s sake, he has invested in proper Witness Familiarisation training!

Bond Solon’s witness familiarisation training focuses on techniques and exercises to build confidence, allay any concerns a witness may have, and ultimately improve a witness’ performance. It does not try to change the facts or truth or rewrite the evidence. Instead, it teaches witnesses what to expect during the process of giving evidence and how to effectively deal with cross-examination.

To find out more about this course, and our Witness Familiarisation services, contact us on +44 (0)20 7549 2549 or at

Author: Meera Shah

This article was first published on the 2 June 2023

Please leave a comment

    Want more information? Please call us on...

    020 7549 2549

    If you require any help or would like to discuss how Bond Solon can assist you in your training needs, please call us on: +44 (0) 20 7549 2549