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Consultation on how victims give court evidence welcomed by Vera Baird

20th January 2015

Moves by the Director of Public Prosecutions to ensure victims in court know what to expect when giving evidence, have been welcomed by Vera Baird.

The Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner said she was totally in favour of telling victims in general terms what cross examination might be coming.

The CPS proposals, which will provide clear guidance and take account of witness needs providing measures which will assist them to give the best evidence, are now open to eight-weeks of public consultation.

She said: “Police officers are trained how to give evidence as are expert witnesses who also have the benefits of being detached from the case and experienced in giving such evidence.

“The defendant also has an opportunity to prepare their case with their team – sometimes many times – before they give their testimony.

“The only witness who has no idea what might be coming when they are in the witness box or what they will be cross examined on is the victim – the most vulnerable party in the court room.”

Mrs Baird added: “They are sometimes utterly undermined by a personal attack which they weren’t expecting and are then unable to give their evidence effectively as they are in shock.

“Trials are an effort, in sensible circumstances to get to the truth, and in no way a game.”

The proposed changes and consultation follow two suicides linked to rape trials elsewhere in the country.

Mrs Baird added: “Something needs to happen as we have vulnerable victims who are further victimised and left traumatised by their experience in court and this is something which could put people off coming forward for help and allowing perpetrators to escape.”