First victims spared harrowing court room under pre-recorded evidence pilot
28 Apr 2014 11:39 AM
The first ever case allowing vulnerable victims
and witnesses to give evidence ahead of the trial has today
a ground-breaking pilot, the most vulnerable victims and witnesses are now able
to give their evidence and be cross-examined away from the intense atmosphere
of a live courtroom, in an attempt to spare them from what could be aggressive
questioning in front of jury, judge and their alleged attacker. This Government
is initially trialling this new approach in three courts with the aim of
rolling it out more widely if successful.
People who may find it difficult to give their best
possible evidence in a courtroom environment and all child victims will be
considered for pre-trial cross-examination in the pilot areas. This allows them
to give their evidence and be cross-examined by both prosecution and defence
barristers ahead of the trial, in front of a judge, and then it is shown to the
jury as part of the trial. Previously victims could have been subject to
lengthy, stressful questioning by multiple barristers in view of jurors and the
start of this trial marks the latest in a series of measures aimed at making
the criminal justice system better meet victims’ needs, in particular the
recent overhaul of the Victims’ Code, as well as the provision of more
money than ever before to help and support victims as they cope and recover
from the traumatic effects of crime.
Following a visit to Kingston Crown Court to see how
pre-trial cross-examination would work in practice, victims’ minister
Damian Green said:
is crucial that people who have experienced or report horrific crimes are given
the highest possible level of protection and support. I am determined that
their needs will be put first.
is absolutely vital the right to a fair trial is upheld, and as part of that if
someone is guilty of a crime that they are brought to justice as swiftly as
possible. If you have experienced a horrendous crime, I can understand that
giving evidence in the pressured environment of a live courtroom, in front of
the jury and goodness how many in the public gallery, can be intimidating and
perhaps too much to ask.
That’s why we are trialling a new approach, the
first of its kind, which prioritises the victim and not the criminal. I hope
this test will allow pre-trial cross-examination to take place more widely soon
if a success.
Three Crown Courts – Leeds, Liverpool and
Kingston-upon-Thames – are testing pre-trial cross-examination this year.
The victims’ minister visited Kingston late last week to see how it will
work in practice and speak to advocates and the judiciary about the improved
court room experience it will offer the most vulnerable. Prior to this, victims
and witnesses could only be cross-examined in court during the trial, although
provisions existed to support those deemed vulnerable, such as giving evidence
from behind a screen or via a video link.
well as allowing the most vulnerable and traumatised to avoid attending the
trial, it will give them the opportunity for counselling and other therapy to
commence far earlier and without the impact of having to re-live their
experience all over again, whilst still ensuring a fair trial.
There will be now a six-month period in which pre-trial
cross-examination is tested in action.
Notes to editors
witnesses under 16 years old and those with a mental or physical disorder which
is likely to result in their evidence being diminished will be eligible to give
evidence in this way in participating courts
Ministry of Justice has been working with the judiciary, Her Majesty’s
Courts and Tribunal Service, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the
Crown Prosecution Service, to establish pre-trial cross examination under
Section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act
ten month pre-trial cross-examination pilot is taking place in Leeds, Liverpool
and Kingston-Upon-Thames Crown courts, with the intention of rolling it out
more widely if it proves a success. Since December the police and CPS have been
identifying suitable victims to take part in the trial in these three areas and
the filming of evidence starting this week.
There are many provisions already in place to help young
and vulnerable victims and witnesses give evidence in court including special
measures – such as giving evidence from behind a screen or by video link,
and access to a registered intermediary.
From next year even more money will be available for
services to support victims of crime, with a potential total budget of up to
£100 million, double the Ministry of Justice’s current