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Victims may pre-record evidence

Young and vulnerable victims of horrific crimes are to be offered the chance to pre-record evidence for criminal trials in a bid to protect them from the trauma of appearing in court.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the new approach will be tested in Leeds, Liverpool and Kingston-upon-Thames with the intention of rolling it out across the country if it is successful.

The move would aim to avoid cases such as the death of violin teacher Frances Andrade, who killed herself after being cross examined at Manchester Crown Court.

The 48-year-old took her life during the trial of choirmaster Michael Brewer, who was later convicted of child sex offences against Mrs Andrade when she was 14 and 15 years old.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "The particularly hostile treatment of victims and witnesses in court has nothing to do with fairness or justice.

"It is simply not right that young and vulnerable victims are forced to relive the most traumatic experience they have ever had, often for days on end, when cross-examined in court. I am adamant we must put a stop to this, but without compromising everyone's right to a fair trial.

"So for the first time we are going to spare these victims from the aggressive and intimidating court atmosphere by making sure they can give evidence and be cross-examined before the trial starts."

Children automatically receive special measures, such as giving evidence from behind a screen or giving it via video link, and these are available to other victims and witnesses at a court's discretion.

Although judges have the power to intervene to prevent overly aggressive cross-examination and character assassinations, there are growing instances of victims being left traumatised after court cases.

Mr Grayling said the changes were designed to allow victims to give evidence in "as easy and unchallenging a way as possible". He told BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "The aim is to really take the victim out of the cauldron of the courtroom. I hope that it will give victims greater confidence to talk about what's happened to them."


From Belfast Telegraph