Justice minister Gerry Sutcliffe announces roll out of vulnerable witnesses support scheme

Justice minister Gerry Sutcliffe today said the government would roll out a scheme to provide vulnerable witnesses with professional supporters to help them through the criminal justice system.

Under the scheme, which is being piloted in eight areas, “intermediaries” are allocated to help children under 17 and adults with mental health problems, physical impairments or learning disabilities handle the various stages of the criminal justice process.

Most intermediaries appointed have been speech and language therapists, with others from psychology, occupational therapy, health and education backgrounds.

An evaluation of the pilots, also released today, found that feedback from witnesses, carers and criminal justice practitioners was uniformly positive, though of 102 cases studied, 27 ended with suspects being charged and 15 with a conviction.

However, though it was not possible to to determine the impact of the intermediaries on outcomes, criminal justice practitioners claimed that half of the trial cases would not have reached that stage without their involvement.

Promoting better justice and protection for vulnerable adults is one of five issues Community Care will be campaigning on as part of our mission statement, and improving the experience of vulnerable witnesses will be one of our central goals.

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 Mithran Samuel



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