- all Crown Courts in Wales now offer pre-recorded cross-examination
- measure to reduce the trauma of victims and witnesses to help them better testify
- nearly two-thirds of all Crown Courts in England and Wales now provide this support
The provision – which is already available in 47 Crown Courts in England – allows victims and witnesses of crimes such as rape and modern slavery to have their cross-examination recorded and broadcast later during the trial. This is subject to a successful application to the court.
The recording takes place as close to the time of the offense as possible, while memories remain fresh, and helps victims avoid the stress of testifying in a live trial, which many find traumatic.
From today, all 6 Crown Courts in Wales will now offer this support, including Caernarfon, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Mold, Newport and Swansea.
The move follows successful implementation for vulnerable victims, such as children or those with limited mental capacity, across the country – with more than 2,500 witnesses having already benefited from the technology since August 2020.
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab said:
As rape convictions have increased by two-thirds over the past year, we are determined to ensure that even more victims get the justice they deserve.
That’s why we’ve deployed pre-recorded evidence in seven more Crown courts – to spare more rape victims the trauma of giving evidence in the glare of the courtroom.
We are also hiring more independent sexual violence counsellors, piloting specialist rape support in the courts, delivering a new Victims Bill and strengthening collaboration between police and prosecutors.
The measure also aims 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.
This means that 54 Crown Courts will be able to offer pre-recorded evidence, almost two-thirds of all Crown Courts in England and Wales. The government has pledged to roll it out nationwide by September 2022.
Secretary of State for Wales Robert Buckland said:
To improve conviction rates for rape and sexual violence, it is essential that victims can provide the best possible evidence and are not further traumatized by their experiences in court.
Video evidence works and is part of our ongoing program to transform the criminal justice system so that victims are at the centre. I helped start this work during my previous role in government and I am delighted to see these measures rolled out across all Crown Courts in Wales.
Welsh Women’s Aid Chief Executive Sara Kirkpatrick said:
Special measures to ensure that victims and witnesses are not further traumatized by their experiences in court are an essential part of a victim-centred criminal justice system. We welcome that all Crown Courts in Wales will now have the ability to use pre-recorded victim evidence, which will help give individuals the option and flexibility to engage with historically intimidating court systems.
While video evidence is a proactive and positive step in addressing issues of public mistrust and lack of trust, it should only be an enhanced element of broader systemic change that puts survivors at the center of all process.
Expanding pre-recorded evidence is a key commitment in the government’s rape review action plan. The plan sets out clear actions for the police, prosecutors and courts. These include a new approach to investigations, reducing the number of victims who withdraw from the process, increasing the number of trials heard, protecting the public and sending more rapists behind bars.
Although much remains to be done, these efforts are beginning to have an impact. The latest figures show that in Wales there was a 13% increase in adult rape prosecutions in 2021 compared to 2019.
Last month, the government released the latest Rape Review Progress report and pledged to pilot specialist rape support in three courtrooms, as recommended by joint CPS and police inspections. This would provide support, such as independent sexual violence counselors, within the court itself, as well as trauma training for court staff. These courtrooms will be located at Snaresbrook Crown Court in London as well as Leeds and Newcastle Crown Courts.
Today’s announcement builds on recent government action to make our streets safer and increase confidence in the justice system, including the release of a Victims Bill. The legislation aims to amplify the voices of victims and make bodies such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police more accountable for the services they provide to them.
Notes to Editors:
- Defense and prosecution attorneys will be present in court during pre-registration, along with the judge and the accused.
- Decisions to grant section 28 hearings are made by independent judges following an application to the court.
- Pre-record cross-examination preserves the accused’s right to a fair trial.
- Vulnerable witnesses and victims are defined as all child witnesses under the age of 18 and any witness whose quality of evidence is likely to be diminished because he suffers from a mental disorder or a physical handicap or presents significant impairment in intelligence and social functioning.
- For the purposes of this pilot project, witnesses and intimidated victims are defined as complainants of sexual offenses and modern slavery offenses who are witnesses in proceedings relating to that offense, or to that offense and any other offense .
- The measure is deployed today in the following courts:
- Merthyr Tydfil
- Preston Crown Court and Family Court (Sessions House)
- Courts that already use pre-recorded evidence for bullied victims are:
- isle of wight
- Kingston Upon Thames
- Green wood
- Teesside Crown Court
- Preston Mixed Court
- Manchester Crown Square
- Manchester Minshull Street
- Swindon Crown Court
- There are 71 Crown Court centers in the UK and a total of 83 Crown Court locations.
- Rape convictions are rising – there has been a 15% increase in the number of people convicted of rape offenses in the past three months in England and Wales. There were 467 convictions last quarter (CPS Prosecution Statistics – October to December 2021), compared to 407, 398 and 376 in previous quarters. The total number of completed prosecutions for rape cases increased by 10%, from 600 (July-September 2021) to 661 (October-December 2021).
- In England and Wales, the average number of days for adult rape from CPS charge to case completion continued to fall, down 38 days (8.3% ) since the peak in June 2021 – falling from 457 days to 419 in October-December 2021.