Plan for supporting witnesses surfaces

The introduction of special measures for
vulnerable adult witnesses were expected to move a step closer to
reality this week with the long-awaited publication of an
implementation plan for outstanding provisions of the Youth Justice
and Criminal Evidence Act 1999.

The plan and accompanying guidance was due to
be published this week by the inter-departmental steering group set
up to take forward the act and the 78 recommendations for improving
the criminal justice system contained in the Home Office’s 1998
report, Speaking up for Justice.

The special measures – which have already been
introduced for child witnesses – include the use of screens in
court, live links, evidence given in private, removal of wigs and
gowns, video-recorded evidence-in-chief, video-recorded
cross-examination, and the use of intermediaries and communication

Speaking in the House of Commons last week,
the minister for criminal justice, sentencing and law reform, Keith
Bradley, admitted the December 2001 target for implementing most of
the Crown Court measures had been “too ambitious”. He said a final
revised timetable would be announced this week.

“We should enable anyoneÉ to give
evidence, by putting the conditions in place to hear it,” said
Bradley, pointing to physical and environmental factors, as well as
the organisation of the courts and the criminal justice system.

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