A new pilot has just been launched which makes it possible for vulnerable victims and witnesses, including children, to give their evidence in a pre-recorded session for use in criminal trials.
The first ever case using this new technique starts today, and will allow for vulnerable parties to give their evidence and be cross-examined away from the aggressive questioning culture of the court room. It also allows the party to give their evidence without doing so in front of their alleged attacker.
If this pilot is successful, it will be rolled out nationwide. Three Crown Courts – Leeds, Liverpool and Kingston-upon-Thames – are testing pre-trial cross-examination this year. There will be a six month period in which pre-trial cross-examination is tested in action.
But who is eligible for this type of evidence giving? The press release tells us that all children under 16 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. The pilot also allows victims the opportunity to get counselling much earlier on and to avoid reliving their experiences in court.
We are also told that next year there may be a potential budget of up to £100 million to help support victims of crime.
We welcome this move forward. Even if the witness who claims to be vulnerable is not telling the truth about the alleged attacker and is not vulnerable, which may be a reality in a few of these cases, we still feel this is a more humane and intelligent way of questioning human beings.
It is also the future. The court process as it stands is outdated. We don’t need showmen or pre-staged court room drama to search for the truth, what we need is a scientific approach to evidence and a compassionate questioning process. All these things in the future, we believe, will happen in a very different environment to the one in which they exist presently.
We will look forward to hearing how the pilot does.