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Citizens Advice response to government’s “Transforming Our Justice System” plans

Citizens Advice has today said it is right that vulnerable witnesses of crime should be allowed to give their evidence before a trial where possible.

The government has announced a joint paper, “Transforming Our Justice System”, which outlined plans to allow victims and witnesses to pre-record their evidence and cross-examination which will then be played to the court during the trial.

Citizens Advice runs the Witness Service which provides free practical and emotional support for witnesses in all criminal courts in England and Wales. This can include home visits to vulnerable and intimidated witnesses before the trial begins.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“For victims and witnesses of crime giving evidence in court can be a daunting experience.  

“Some witnesses are understandably anxious about the prospect of attending court in person and going through cross-examination. Reliving what may have been a traumatic event in front of the defendant as well as the judiciary can be particularly stressful, especially for victims of crime. 

“The right support is crucial to help witnesses understand what will be expected of them in court. Four in five people supported by the Witness Service reported that they feel less anxious and distressed and better able to cope with giving evidence.

“The government’s proposals that the most vulnerable witnesses, including children, are allowed to give evidence before the trial could relieve much of the stress and difficulty of attending to court and thereby help them to give their best evidence.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  5. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.

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