Neil Parish MP in Attorney-General Questions

Neil Parish MP raised the issue of support for vulnerable witnesses in sexual abuse or domestic violence cases during Attorney General Questions in the House of Commons.

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to ensure that adequate provision is made to support vulnerable witnesses in sexual abuse or domestic violence cases.

The Solicitor-General (Oliver Heald): The Crown Prosecution Service takes allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence very seriously and ensures that prosecutors are well equipped to handle those cases. There is also the national network of witness care units, whose role is to support victims. The House will want to know that the Director of Public Prosecutions will publish final guidelines on prosecuting cases of child sexual abuse shortly.

Neil Parish: Will my hon. and learned Friend outline what the special measures will be, how they will be granted for vulnerable witnesses and how they will help the court process to ensure that the trial is fair for all, particularly those witnesses in these very difficult cases?

The Solicitor-General: The special measures available for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses include: giving evidence from behind a screen, by live television link or in private by clearing the court room of the public; removal of wigs and gowns by judges and lawyers; use of video-recorded evidence-in-chief; examination of the witness through an intermediary; and provision of communication aids. Many of us are strong supporters of one special measure, pre-recorded cross-examination, for which I think there is a measure of support across the House. It has not yet been implemented, but it is coming soon.