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Vulnerable Witnesses

Volume 594: debated on Tuesday 24 March 2015

4. What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to provide greater assistance to vulnerable witnesses and to support them better in giving evidence in court. (908286)

The Crown Prosecution Service is committed to improving the experience at court for all witnesses, and CPS staff work closely with the police and the voluntary sector to ensure that vulnerable witnesses are supported through the criminal justice system. Special measures such as the use of intermediaries or screens in court can also be applied to provide greater support for witnesses who give evidence.

Does the Minister agree that there is a clear need for children and other vulnerable witnesses to have the ability to give their evidence away from court, to ensure that as many prosecutions as possible can progress?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, and I am encouraged by the work that has been done in the pilot courts in Leeds, Kingston and Liverpool on the use of section 28 provisions to allow the cross-examination of children and young people away from court. I very much hope that that will become the norm as soon as possible.

In the light of the Eleanor de Freitas case, will the Solicitor-General review the guidance to ensure that the provision of support and counselling services to vulnerable people is not removed abruptly?

That was a particularly sensitive and difficult case that, as the hon. Lady knows, was the subject of careful consideration and reconsideration. We must avoid a sudden cut-off of support and help. I know that police family liaison officers do a huge amount of work before and after cases, and I would like to ensure that that sort of work continues, particularly in sensitive cases such as the one that she has raised.