Expansion of video evidence will help protect vulnerable victims, government claims
Thousands more cases each year will support the use of pre-recorded testimony
Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0
The Ministry of Justice believes that new measures will enable thousands more vulnerable and traumatised victims to provide pre-recorded video evidence for use in criminal trials.
The rollout of the necessary audiovisual technology in courtrooms means that, since September 2022, victims of crimes including rape and sexual assault have had the option of pre-recording their cross-examination. The tech has now been installed in all crown courts throughout England and Wales and, for the first time, its use will shortly be trialled in a youth court in Leeds, ahead of an examination of “could be used more widely in trials of under 18s”.
The tech platforms will be complemented by a new framework of payments for lawyers who, from the start of this month, will be able to earn a fee of £804 for undertaking pre-recorded cross-examination work.
- More than 100 courts open for video and telephone hearings
- ‘Significant escalation’ – Christmas strikes planned over courts IT system dispute
- Supreme Court cases move to videoconferencing
All of these new measures mean that the MoJ is expecting the number of victims that are able to give pre-recorded video evidence – avoiding the trauma of a courtroom cross-examination – to treble from its current level. This will mean that about 4,600 cases a year incorporate remotely given evidence.
“This helps victims avoid the stress of giving evidence under full glare of a live trial setting, which many find traumatic,” the MoJ said. “[These] measures allow for evidence to be given as close to the time of the offence as possible while memories remain fresh, increasing the likelihood of vulnerable witnesses achieving justice. It is designed to maintain a defendant’s right to a fair trial and any decision to pre-record evidence is made by a judge on a case-by-case basis.”
The ministry added: “Pre-recorded cross-examination technology is available to certain victims of sexual and modern slavery offences in all Crown Courts in England and Wales. It is also available to vulnerable victims, such as children and those whose quality of evidence is likely to be diminished because of a mental or physical condition.”
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