Justice inspectors call for witness charter
Criminal Justice inspectors have called for more support for people who feel vulnerable or intimidated when they give evidence in court.
The report by the Criminal Justice Inspection (CJI) has called for a witness charter and has made 20 recommendations to improve support for witnesses.
The deputy chief inspector of the CJI, Brendan McGuigan outlined the charter to the BBC: "It will make it very clear to victims and witnesses the obligations and the responsibilities of the criminal justice organisations in terms of their treatment and mensuring that they are given the sort of treatment that is required to enable them with confidence to give their testimony before the court.”
Justice Minister David Ford said: "Over the two years I have served as justice minister, I have put in place a series of reforms to improve services to victims and witnesses in the justice system.
"This report by the Criminal Justice Inspection proves that these reforms are having a positive impact and I am determined that this important work will continue so that services improve."
Pamela Atchison, deputy director of Public Prosecutions, has welcomed the report.
"PPS recognises that giving evidence at court can be a difficult and stressful experience and that it is particularly so for vulnerable or mintimidated victims and witnesses,” she said.
"Police and PPS are working together to improve the services provided and in September 2011 established a Joint Special Measures Action Group to identify and deliver continual improvements in this area."
George Hamilton, Assistant Chief Constable, said the police continually strived to “improve the quality of service and support we provide to victims and witnesses, particularly those most vulnerable or intimidated”.
"However we recognise there is work to be done to ensure we meet the personal needs and expectations of victims and witnesses on every occasion,” he said.