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A pilot scheme that will allow victims and witnesses to give eveidence ahead of criminal trials will not necessarily make the system as child-friendly as it could be, the NSPCC's head of corporate affairs has said. Alan Wardle added:
We welcome the pilot and hope it paves the way for more children to be spared the ordeal of having to give live evidence in court. The pilot will not necessarily make the system as child-friendly as it could be, but is a positive step - offering children the opportunity to give their evidence and be cross examined in advance of the trial and sparing them the often lengthy wait for a court date which can cause unnecessary anxiety.
However, there is still more work to be done to ensure all young witnesses are supported by a justice system that is truly fit for children.
Vulnerable and intimidated witnesses should get specialist help throughout the criminal justice process, the assistant chief executive at Victim Support has said, as a new pilot scheme allowing evidence to be given ahead of criminal trials is due to be rolled out tomorrow. Adam Pemberton added:
We welcome these pilots because repeated, aggressive questioning of vulnerable witnesses in a packed courtroom cannot be the best way to obtain sound and accurate evidence.
Victims and witnesses are entitled to a fair trial as well as defendants and we believe pre-recorded evidence taken in a less intense environment and when events are fresher in the mind will help level the playing field.
People who have experienced or reported horrific crimes should be given the highest possible level of protection and support, the Victims' Minister said, as a new pilot scheme which allows victims and witnesses to give evidence ahead of criminal trials is due to be rolled out.
Following a visit to Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court, Damian Green said: "If you have experienced a horrendous crime, giving evidence in the pressured environment of a live courtroom, in front of the jury and the public gallery, can be intimidating and perhaps too much to ask.
"That's why we are trying a new approach, the first of its kind, which prioritises the victim."
A pilot scheme which allows victims and witnesses to give evidence ahead of criminal trials starts tomorrow.
The most vulnerable people involved in the courts process will be able to give their evidence and be cross-examined away from the intense atmosphere of a live courtroom, in an attempt to spare them what could be aggressive questioning in front of jury, judge and their alleged attacker.
The Government is initially trying the new approach in three courts with the aim of rolling it out more widely if successful, the Ministry of Justice said.