Ann Coffey MP, has welcomed today’s announcement from the Ministry of Justice, that the most vulnerable victims of child sexual exploitation are to be protected from the trauma of appearing in court in the wake of the Rochdale and Telford trials.
Ms Coffey, who is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, is a long time campaigner for changes to the court process to stop barristers breaking down child witnesses with inappropriate and aggressive cross examination.
Now the government has announced that for the first time young and vulnerable victims, who have survived the most horrific crimes, will be offered the chance to avoid what is often a distressing and intimating court experience by pre-recording both their evidence and any cross-examination for a later trial. This new approach will be tested in three areas – Leeds, Liverpool and Kingston-upon-Thames – with the intention of rolling it out more widely if it proves a success.
Ms Coffey said: “This will end hours and in some cases weeks of torture for victims in court who are made to relive their experiences over and over again in a bid to break them down and to get defendants of the hook.
“Many vulnerable young girls and boys over the years have had to suffer what is in effect a form of character assassination. This does not allow justice to be done.
“Pre-recording evidence and cross examinations away from the theatre of the court room will ensure the best quality evidence is presented to the jury without the dramatic, and often rather cruel theatricals, which some barristers engage in to humiliate and destroy vulnerable witnesses.”