RAPE victims will be spared the stress of being cross-examined in court under a scheme rolled out to four Crown Courts in the Midlands.
The provision, which is available in 54 Crown Courts across England and Wales, allows victims and witnesses of crimes such as rape and modern slavery to have their cross-examination video-recorded and played later during trial.
This is subject to a successful application to the court.
The recording takes place as close to the time of the offence as possible, while memories remain fresh, and helps victims avoid the stress of giving evidence in a courtroom setting, which many find traumatic.
And now the measure is available at Birmingham, Coventry, Derby and Wolverhampton Crown Courts.
The move follows the successful implementation for vulnerable victims, such as children or those who have limited mental capacity, across the country – with more than 2,500 witnesses having already benefitted from the technology since August 2020.
Justice Minister, Tom Pursglove, said: “We’re overhauling the entire response to rape and rolling out pre-recorded evidence to every Crown Court in England and Wales is a key part of that – sparing victims the stress of testifying during a live trial.
“We’re also recruiting more independent sexual violence advisors, improving collaboration between police and prosecutors, and delivering a Victims’ Bill to ensure they get the justice they deserve.
“While there is still much more to do, we are starting to see the results of these efforts, with rape convictions up by more than a quarter since before the pandemic.”
The measure is also designed to maintain a defendant’s right to a fair trial and any decision to pre-record evidence is made by a judge on a case-by-case basis.
The roll out of pre-recorded evidence is a key pledge within the Government’s Rape Review Action Plan.
These include a new approach to investigations, reducing the number of victims withdrawing from the process, increasing the volume of trials being heard, protecting the public and putting more rapists behind bars.
This announcement builds on recent government action to make the streets safer and increase confidence in the justice system, including the publication of a draft Victims’ Bill.
The legislation seeks to amplify victims’ voices, and places greater accountability on agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and police for the service they provide to them.