Ministry of Justice
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Courts reform gives stronger protection for victims and witnesses

Vulnerable victims and witnesses will no longer have to appear in court under new plans to roll out pre-trial evidence sessions.

  • Vulnerable victims and witnesses to be spared the trauma of appearing in court with national roll out of pre-trial evidence sessions
  • Historic joint paper from the Lord Chancellor, Senior President of Tribunals and Lord Chief Justice outlines their £1 billion vision to deliver a justice system that works for everyone
  • Under the shake-up, legal jargon will be replaced by simple language and people will be able to plead guilty to some minor offences and pay fines online

Vulnerable victims and witnesses will no longer have to appear in court under new plans to roll out pre-trial evidence sessions.

The cross-examinations will be recorded and played during the trial - sparing both victims and witnesses the stress of re-living traumatic events in open court.

The move follows three successful pilots which showed that victims felt less pressure with pre-trial evidence giving and witnesses were better able to recall events.

Almost three quarters of the cases in the pilot programmes, run in Liverpool, Leeds and Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Courts, involved sexual offences.

The Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, said children in particular would benefit from being able to give evidence in a less intimidating environment.

The joint paper also outlines plans to make the system more straightforward by reducing legal jargon and allowing people to plead guilty to some minor offences and pay fines online – beginning with transport fare dodging.

Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:

We want a justice system that works for everyone. That means creating a system that is just, proportionate and accessible.

We have the tools and the technology to cut unnecessary paperwork, to deliver swifter justice and to make the experience more straightforward.

Most importantly these reforms will allow us to better protect victims and witnesses who can find the experience of re-living a traumatic event in court incredibly stressful.

The plans were outlined today by the Lord Chancellor, Elizabeth Truss, the Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Ernest Ryder, and the Lord Chief Justice, The Right Honourable Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd.

The joint vision paper, called ‘Transforming Our Justice System’, includes plans to scrap paper forms and ‘go digital’ in every court and tribunal in England and Wales.

Already more than 12 million pages of evidence have been put online, upgraded video link systems have been installed in 130 courts and Wi-Fi has been rolled out across the criminal court estate.

A separate consultation has been launched today seeking views on modernising a number of working practices for judges and to attract talented and diverse candidates to this career.

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