CPS consults on improving service to vulnerable witnesses

The Crown Prosecution Service has launched a draft policy on prosecuting cases involving victims and witnesses with mental health problems or learning disabilities.

The consultation paper sets out how the CPS should improve their practice in a number of areas including victim support, the giving of evidence and dealing with disability hate crime.

Equal rights

The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, said: “Every person has an equal right to be protected by criminal law and by the criminal justice agencies. Stopping crimes against people experiencing mental distress and/or with learning disabilities and bringing perpetrators to justice must therefore be a priority for our society and for the CPS.”

A research paper on how the CPS deals with cases involving witnesses and victims with mental health problems and learning disabilities was published together with the draft policy.

This recommended that more should be found out about the victims’ and witnesses’ mental health or learning disability status while making charging decisions, and that there should be improved knowledge and understanding of these issues across the police, prosecutors and local groups.

The consultation period will last until March 2009, when the new policy will be published.

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