Witnesses: Protection

Justice written question – answered on 14th January 2014.

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Photo of Matthew Offord Matthew Offord Conservative, Hendon

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the adequacy of legal protections afforded to witnesses in criminal cases; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

The Government consider the role of witnesses in the criminal justice system to be of paramount importance, and are taking a number of steps to improve the quality of their experience.

There is already a range of special measures available to help vulnerable and intimidated victims and witnesses give their best evidence in criminal cases. These include giving evidence by remote live link; being screened from the defendant in court; video-recorded evidence-in-chief; removal of wigs and gowns; clearing the public gallery in certain cases; aids to communication and the use of an intermediary.

The Government have also:

begun piloting the use of pre-recorded pre-trial cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses on 30 December 2013; issued a revised Witness Charter, which sets out the standards of care witnesses can expect to receive from criminal justice service providers on 11 December 2013; and launched the first UK Protected Persons Service on 1 October 2013 to ensure greater coordination and efficiency of services, national standards, improved consistency and accountability and above all, better protection for victims, witnesses and other vulnerable people whose lives could be at risk.

Furthermore, there is provision in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, currently before the other House, which will ensure that any person whose safety is at risk from the possible or actual criminal conduct of another will receive the most appropriate form of protection, if this is assessed necessary to protect their life. This will mean that the police are not restricted to protecting only those people named on a list.

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