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Victim Intimidation

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2006

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) what support and assistance is given to victims of antisocial behaviour during court trials to prevent victim and witness intimidation; (93613)

(2) what means of giving evidence in a court of law are available to victims of antisocial behaviour in cases involving criminal offences; and if she will make a statement;

(3) what protocols exist to allow victims to give evidence in a court of law anonymously, with particular reference to antisocial behaviour criminal proceedings.

Witness Liaison Officers, security officers and other court staff work closely with the Witness Service to ensure that courts provide a safe environment for victims of antisocial behaviour. On arrival at court, steps are taken to assist witnesses, defendants, supporters and observers. Using this information, victims and their families are, as far as possible, kept in a separate place from defendants and their supporters in accordance with national standards. Where a victim or witness has been identified before trial as vulnerable or intimidated, a particular issue in antisocial behaviour cases, court staff are trained to review entrance and exit routes to limit the opportunity for contact with the defendant. Throughout the process (before, during and after trial) the Witness Service is available to offer emotional and practical assistance.

At trial, courts can receive evidence from vulnerable or intimidated witnesses, including victims of antisocial behaviour, through the use of special measures. These measures include screening the witness from the accused; the giving of evidence by live link; the giving of evidence in private; and video recorded evidence. In exceptional cases a court can grant full anonymity to a witness. This is at the discretion of the judge or bench of magistrates.