Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner has welcomed a proposal to allow children and vulnerable victims to have their evidence pre-recorded ahead of a trial.
Tony Lloyd said the move, announced by the Justice Secretary, was an important step towards putting victims at the centre of the criminal justice system.
The measures are to be piloted in Liverpool, Leeds and Kingston-upon-Thames for six months. If judged a success they will be rolled out across the country.
Tony said: “Giving evidence in court is a traumatic experience, particularly for children and vulnerable people. I’ve heard some harrowing stories from victims who have had to give evidence so I warmly welcome this measure and hope it will become standard practice across the country. It’s also what local people told me they want to see happen at an event I held recently for victims of crime in Greater Manchester.
“The tragic death of Frances Andrade demonstrates in the starkest terms how much of an ordeal giving evidence can be. Courts have been too slow to recognise that the needs of victims are paramount if we are to see justice done. This proposal is an important step towards putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice system; it can only be good for them – and in the interests of justice.
The measure would allow children and vulnerable adults to give their evidence and be cross-examined in advance of a trial starting which will take them out of what the Justice Secretary describes as the “cauldron of the courtroom”.
The proposals build on other special measures available to vulnerable witnesses, such as giving evidence via video link or from behind a screen.
Meanwhile the Crown Prosecution Service has published new guidance on how prosecutors should treat cases of child sexual abuse. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said the focus must be on the credibility of the allegations, rather than perceived weaknesses in the victims.
Tony added: “This guidance is helpful, welcome and another step towards ensuring that the entire criminal justice process must act in the interests of the child.”