Witnesses: Young People

Home Department written question – answered on 5th March 2007.

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Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock Liberal Democrat, Portsmouth South

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will establish a national system of support for young people involved in the criminal justice system as witnesses; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Government are committed to ensuring that the most vulnerable members of our society, including young people, have access to justice.

Young witnesses are already benefiting from a number of initiatives which we have introduced to increase the support and information available for victims and witnesses. These include the provision of an annual grant (currently £30 million) to Victim Support to provide services for victims and to run the Witness Service, which is available in every criminal court in England and Wales. £2 million of this funding is ring-fenced to provide enhanced services for vulnerable and intimidated witnesses, including children. We have also set up Witness Care Units across England and Wales, providing tailored support for witnesses once a charge is made, and have introduced Witness Liaison Officers in all criminal courts to act as a contact point for information for witnesses.

We have introduced special measures, such as screens and video links, under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, designed to make the experience of giving evidence in court less intimidating. Specific additional support for young witnesses includes the provision of a Young Witness Pack and other resources to all young witnesses and their parents or carers, as well as improved facilities for child witnesses in court. Some local areas have supplemented the national support services by setting up local specialist young witness support schemes. We are currently developing guidance for local areas on how to set up such schemes, promulgating good practice identified from existing models.

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