Dr Penny Cooper has been a barrister since 1990 and a professor of law since 2009. She is an expert on the effective participations of witnesses and parties in court. She devised the internationally recognised English model for the witness intermediary, the ground rules approach and co-founded The Advocate’s Gateway. Her work has led to international developments in witness handling and case management. She frequently advises City law firms, multinationals and leading counsel on witness familiarisation procedures, cross-examination and case management.

Since 2003 Penny has led the development of training and national guidance for Registered Intermediaries in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and New South Wales, Australia. She regularly delivers training to judges and practitioners around the world on the effective participation of witnesses and parties. In 2016 in Sydney Penny gave expert evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse about the witness intermediary model which she created. In 2017 the Royal Commission’s final report recommended its use throughout Australia.


Penny created and researches ‘the ground rules approach’ for witness evidence. Her innovative research and teaching has led to changes in court practice including the introduction of Criminal Procedure Rule 3.9(7) on ground rules.

Penny has a particular interest and practical expertise in cases where a witness or party is vulnerable including those affected by an autism spectrum condition/ Asperger Syndrome.


Penny is a former Governor and Director at the Expert Witness Institute and has previously been called on to give expert advice to The President of the Family Division’s Vulnerable Witness Working Group, the Ministry of Justice Advisory Group on pre-recorded cross-examination, the Training and Accreditation Committee of The Advocacy Training Council and Mr Justice Newton’s committee devising vulnerable witness training for all family court advocates.

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