under Sections 34-37 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act an adverse inference "which appears proper" can be drawn from a defendants refusal to testify.
My first questionhow often does this happen in practice?
Obviously it is absurd to conclude that the defendant did not testify for "insert X reason here" because the reason for a decision not to testify is subjective. It is known only to the defendant and nothing can change that.
You would think that a jury of 12 people would never have more than 1 person who is stupid enough to think that you can magically know why someone choose not to testify.
Unfortunately most trials are decided by magistrates who can often sit alone so one persons stupidity could influence a decision in most cases.
my second questionDoes a person who has a real reason not to want to testify have any good options?
Some people may not wish to testily because they would have to reveal something that could have consequences not related to the charge at hand (ether the content of their testimony would effectively be a statement that says they did something else wrong or it could be something they done want a abusive partner, strict parents, unfriendly employer, tabloids ect to know about.
Some people have difficulty speaking in certain situations, which is not connected with a known psycological condition which they could claim as their reason for not testifying. For some people any attempt to talk in court would go something like thishttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww
This could cause multiple problems, not least of which is involuntarily saying something random which is incriminating but untrue and being unable to explain this.