Victim Support Schemes: Children

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 what witness support is available to children in Portsmouth.

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

Young witnesses in Portsmouth should be benefiting from a number of initiatives which we have introduced to increase the support and information available for victims and witnesses throughout England and Wales.

The Government provide an annual grant to Victim Support to run the community service to support victims of crime and a witness service in every criminal court. The current grant of £30 million includes £2 million which is ring-fenced to provide enhanced services for vulnerable and intimidated witnesses, including children. Part of this ring-fenced funding is allocated by the Victim Support Funding Panel to Hampshire Victim Support to provide a specialist young witness support scheme in that area.

We have also introduced Witness Care Units throughout England and Wales, which provide a single point of contact within the criminal justice system, once a charge has been made. Witness Care Units carry out a needs assessment to identify the information, emotional and practical needs of the witness, and in the case of a child witness, their parents or carers where appropriate. The Portsmouth Witness Care Unit has considerably enhanced the standard of service for witnesses in Hampshire, including child witnesses.

Under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, we introduced special measures, such as screens and video links, to make the experience of giving evidence less difficult for children and other vulnerable and intimidated witnesses.

We have also provided a Young Witness Pack and other resources, specifically for young witnesses, and are implementing a programme for improvement of facilities for young witnesses in court.

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