Portrait of Joanne Morrison

Joanne Morrison

PhD student Tizard Centre


Joanne is a full time Phd student at Tizard Centre.  

Joanne works as a Registered Intermediary to assess and advise on the communication needs of vulnerable children and adults within the criminal justice system, specialising in the areas of learning disability, autism and ADHD.  She has also been a Lay Magistrate in Youth and Family courts in Northern Ireland for the past 12 years.  Following the completion of a Masters and Diploma in Social Work through Queens University, Belfast in 2001, Joanne spent a year working on a community stigma elimination programme through a leprosy hospital in Nepal and then 14 years as a Family Worker and Participation Worker for Positive Futures, a charity for people with learning disabilities, autism and brain injury.  Joanneā€™s main areas of work were: using Person Centred Practice to assess and meet the needs of individuals and their families (children and older carers); developing the voice of individuals and groups within the decision-making processes and governance of the organisation, including setting up a Trustee Advisory Board; developing person centred plans using technology; advocacy; and group work.  She is also a voluntary member of a micro-board for an adult with a severe learning disability. 

Research interests

Her PhD study focuses on the use of communication with people with learning disabilities and/or autism in the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.  Her research study combines her interests and experiences in the criminal justice system and a passion for working with people with learning disabilities and autism.    



  • Morrison, J., Forrester-Jones, R., Bradshaw, J. and Murphy, G. (2019). Communication and cross-examination in court for children and adults with intellectual disabilities: A systematic review. The International Journal of Evidence & Proof [Online] 23:366-398. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1365712719851134.
    Courts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have identified children and adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) as vulnerable witnesses. The call from the English Court of Appeal is for advocates to adjust questioning during cross-examination according to individual needs. This review systematically examined previous empirical studies with the aim of delineating the particular communication needs of children and adults with ID during cross-examination. Studies utilising experimental methodology similar to examination/cross-examination processes, or which assessed the communication of actual cross-examinations in court were included. A range of communication challenges were highlighted including: suggestibility to leading questions and negative feedback; acquiescence; accuracy; and understanding of court language. In addition, a number of influencing factors were identified, including: age; IQ level; question styles used; recall memory; and delays. This review highlights the need for further research using cross-examination methodology and live practice, that take into consideration the impact on communication of the unique environment and situation of the cross-examination process.
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