Lack of cash could stall legal support
Legislation designed to improve support for vulnerable witnesses
who pursue cases of abuse through the courts might not be used
because agencies do not have the money to implement it.
Under the Youth and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, which comes into
force this month, special measures including videotaped evidence
and screens in court can be used for vulnerable witnesses, such as
children and people with learning difficulties.
But Kathryn Stone, director of charity Voice UK, told the home
affairs select committee inquiry into abuse in children’s homes
that police authorities and the court service did not have the
finances to put the measures into practice.
She said: “The trial process could be made a lot better for
vulnerable witnesses if the special measures were properly funded
and delivered.” She added that all professionals involved in the
criminal justice system should be made aware of the vulnerability
of survivors of child abuse and should enlist the help of agencies
that provide counselling and therapeutic services.
Matthew Byrne, a project co-ordinator at Fire in Ice, a
Liverpool-based support group for men who were abused as children,
said police methods of trawling should be changed.
He said more needed to be done to support potential victims once
they had helped the police. He said that trawling methods should be
re-assessed to put support in place afterwards. It was “crucial” to
engage with survivors, he added.
Suggestions that compensation was a motivation for alleging
child abuse were dismissed by another of the witnesses. Phil
Frampton, national chairperson of the Care Leavers Association,
said there were a few cases of people being falsely accused, but he
said he thought there were tens of thousands of people who had been
abused who would never come forward. He said police investigations
had given hope to some people, but there remained a lack of
willingness to face up to the existence of abuse.