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Courts: Witnesses

Volume 487: debated on Thursday 29 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many and what percentage of witnesses in court on Merseyside (a) applied for and (b) were granted special measures in giving evidence in the last year for which figures are available; and what assessment has been made of witnesses’ views on the special measures available. (251341)

In 2008 the Crown Court at Liverpool received 806 applications for Special Measures. Of these, 601 or 74.6 per cent. were granted. Of the remaining applications, the majority were in cases in which guilty pleas were entered so there was no need for the application to proceed.

The number and percentage of successful requests for special measures in the magistrates court and youth court is not held centrally. These figures could not be produced without incurring disproportionate cost.

In 2004 the Home Office published independent research which found that special measures were working effectively. The study showed that 76 per cent. of witnesses overall were satisfied with special measures. A further breakdown of these statistics for different subgroups of witnesses is available from:

The research also found that one-third of vulnerable or intimidated witnesses would not be able or willing to give evidence without the assistance of special measures. This rose to 44 per cent. where the witness was a victim of a sexual offence.

Further independent studies include NSPCC research that interviewed 50 young witnesses and concluded that special measures, in particular live links, helped child witnesses who would otherwise have been reluctant to give evidence.

Our own consultation exercise, ‘Improving the Criminal Trial Process for Young Witnesses (2007)’ found that where young witnesses used special measures, they had significantly more confidence in the criminal justice system.