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.”