New technology which spares victims of rape the stress of being cross-examined during a live trial is now available at every Crown Court in England and Wales.
The Government has today (26 September) delivered on its pledge to ensure this vital measure is available nationwide to boost rape convictions and ensure better support for victims.
The tool allows victims and witnesses of crimes such as rape and modern slavery to have their cross-examination video-recorded and played later during trial. This is subject to a successful application to the court.
The recording takes place as close to the time of the offence as possible, while memories remain fresh, and helps victims avoid the stress of giving evidence under full glare of a live trial setting, which many find traumatic.
From today, the measure will be available at a final 20 Crown Courts in Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, East Anglia, Essex, London and the South East, and marks the completion of national rollout.
The move follows the successful implementation for vulnerable victims, such as children or those who have limited mental and physical capacity, across the country – with more than 3,000 witnesses having already benefitted from the technology since August 2020.
Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Brandon Lewis said:
We’re overhauling the entire response to rape – boosting support for victims so that more cases come to court and more rapists are put behind bars.
Today we have delivered on our pledge to roll out pre-recorded evidence to every Crown Court in England and Wales, sparing victims of this awful crime the additional trauma of testifying under the full glare of a courtroom.
The successful rollout of pre-recorded evidence meets a key pledge within the Government’s Rape Review Action Plan which sets out clear actions for the police, prosecutors and courts. These include a new approach to investigations in order to reduce the number of victims withdrawing from the process and increase the number of cases reaching court.
The measure is designed to maintain a defendant’s right to a fair trial and any decision to pre-record evidence is made by a judge on a case-by-case basis. Following today’s completion of national rollout to Crown Courts, the Government has announced that it will be piloted for children and vulnerable adult witnesses for all offences at Leeds Youth Court, considering how it could be used more widely in trials of under 18s.
In June, the Government published the latest Rape Review Progress report and committed to piloting specialist rape support in three courtrooms as recommended by the Joint Inspectorates of the CPS and Police. These courts offer support such as Independent Sexual Violence Advisors within the court itself as well as trauma training to court staff and are being set up at Snaresbrook, Leeds and Newcastle Crown Courts.