Technology protects the vulnerable in court cases

New technology has now been implemented in every Crown Court in England and Wales to reduce the trauma vulnerable victims and witnesses experience as a result of going to court.

The technology enables children or those who live with a debilitating condition to have their cross-examination video-recorded and played during the trial. This recording is made as close as possible to the date the offence took place to help share accurate memories and witness testimonies.

Any decision to pre-record evidence is made by a judge on a case-by case basis.

The rollout began earlier this year, and since then 350 victims and witnesses have benefitted from this.

What does this technology allow?

The technology allows for:

  • pre-recorded cross-examination now available throughout England and Wales
  • reduce stress for vulnerable victims and witnesses who can give better evidence
  • pilot for victims of sexual trafficking offences ongoing

Justice Minister, Alex Chalk MP, said:

“The court process can be a harrowing experience for vulnerable victims and witnesses.

“This technology seeks to minimise stress and ensure they can provide their best evidence, without reducing a defendant’s right to a fair trial.

“This is part of our efforts to drive improvement for victims at every stage of the justice system.”

Andrew Penhale, Chief Crown Prosecutor and CPS lead for Section 28 said:

“The CPS is very conscious that being cross-examined at trial is particularly difficult for children and other vulnerable witnesses, many of whom have been exposed to very distressing and unpleasant crimes.

“Waiting for the trial process can inevitably add to their anxiety so the fact this measure can significantly reduce the time they have to wait to give evidence will make a huge difference. In the current circumstances, we know reducing delay is more important than ever.”

Dame Vera Baird QC, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales said:

“I very much welcome this national roll-out, ensuring more vulnerable victims and witnesses have the option to pre-record their evidence. Giving evidence and being cross-examined in court can be a distressing and re-traumatising experience. This is especially true for a child or a vulnerable witness. This roll-out will enable more victims to put their experiences behind them sooner, rather than wait in anticipation for the trial which may be many months away.

“I congratulate HMCTS and the Ministry of Justice in driving this forward and being so responsive. This has the potential to transform the criminal justice experience for so many vulnerable victims.

Anna Edmundson, NSPCC Head of Policy and Public Affairs said:

“This is a welcome development from HMCTS and the Ministry of Justice. The NSPCC has campaigned for the introduction of pre-recorded cross-examination so that young people can give their evidence sooner rather than later and then start to look to the future and rebuild their lives.

“Waiting for long periods to take part in court proceedings can be a traumatic experience for young witnesses so this national rollout is an important step towards protecting the best interests of children.

“Alongside ensuring young victims and witnesses receive tailored support throughout the process, these changes should mean that children’s experiences of the criminal justice system are transformed.”

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