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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

Welsh courts roll out pre-recorded evidence for rape victims

Welsh courts roll out pre-recorded evidence for rape victims


All crown courts across England and Wales now offer the scheme

From today (Monday 11 July 2022), rape victims will be spared the stress of being cross-examined in court under a measure rolled out to every crown court in Wales.

The provision – already available in 47 crown courts in England – allows victims and witnesses of crimes such as rape and modern slavery to have their cross-examination video-recorded and played later during trial, subject to a successful application to the court.

The measure is 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. Both defence and prosecution lawyers will be present in court during the pre-recording as will the judge and the defendant.

The recording is taken as close to the time of the offence as possible. Many victims find the giving of evidence traumatic, and having evidence pre-recorded helps reduce stress.

The scheme follows the successful implementation for vulnerable victims, such as children or those with limited mental capacity, across the country – with more than 2,500 witnesses having already benefitted from the technology since August 2020. Vulnerable witnesses and victims are defined as all child witnesses under 18 and any witness whose quality of evidence is likely to be diminished because they are suffering from a mental disorder or physical disability or has significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning.

Deputy prime minister, lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice, Dominic Raab, commented: “While rape convictions are up two thirds in the last year, we are determined to ensure even more victims get the justice they deserve.

“That’s why we have rolled out pre-recorded evidence to seven more crown courts – to spare more rape victims the trauma of testifying in the glare of the courtroom.

“We are also recruiting more independent sexual violence advisors, piloting specialist rape support in courts, delivering a new Victims’ Bill and boosting collaboration between police and prosecutors”.

54 crown courts can offer pre-recorded evidence – nearly two thirds of all Crown Courts in England and Wales. The government is committed to nationwide rollout by September 2022.

Secretary of State for Wales, Robert Buckland, said: “To improve conviction rates for rape and sexual violence it is vital that victims can provide the best possible evidence and are not further traumatised by their experiences in court.

“Video evidence works and is part of our ongoing programme to transform the criminal justice system so victims are at its centre. I helped begin this work during my previous role in government and I am delighted to see these measures being rolled out in every crown court in Wales”.

Welsh Women’s Aid Chief Executive, Sara Kirkpatrick, said: “Special measures to ensure that victims and witnesses are not further traumatised by their experiences through the courts are a vital component of a victim centred criminal justice system.

“We welcome that all crown courts across Wales will now have the facility to use pre-recorded evidence of victims, which will help to provide scope and flexibility for individuals to engage with historically intimidating justice systems.

“While video evidence is a proactive and positive step in addressing issues of distrust and low public confidence, it must be just one improved element in a wider, systemic change that places survivors at the centre of all processes”.