Video evidence for victims of rape and sexual assault rolled out to more crown courts including Sheffield and Doncaster

More victims of rape and sexual offences will be spared the stress of being cross-examined in court under a measure rolled out to a further 14 locations.

The Ministry of Justice announced today that victims and witnesses of crimes such as rape and modern slavery will be able to have their cross-examination video-recorded and played later during trial.

The measure was brought in with immediate effect at Sheffield and Doncaster crown courts as well as others from Newcastle to Truro.

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The recording takes place as close to the time of the offence as possible, while memories remain fresh, and helps victims avoid the stress of giving evidence in a courtroom setting, which many find traumatic, with an independent judiciary responsible for overseeing the use of pre-recorded evidence.

The Ministry of Justice has announced that victims and witnesses of crimes such as rape and modern slavery will be able to have their cross-examination video-recorded and played later during trial. The measure was brought in with immediate effect at Sheffield and Doncaster crown courts as well as others from Newcastle to Truro.

Judges will decide on a case by case basis whether the remote giving of evidence is appropriate and both the defence and prosecution lawyers will be present in court during the recording, as will the judge and the defendant.

It adds to the practice that is already established at courts in Leeds, York, Hull, Grimsby, Bradford and Teesside.

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Victoria Atkins MP, Minister for Tackling Violence against Women and Girls, said: “This measure is a key part of our plan to overhaul the justice system’s response to rape - minimising stress for victims and helping them to provide the best possible evidence.

“Alongside this, we’re recruiting more independent sexual violence advisers, launching a new 24/7 helpline and improving collaboration between police and prosecutors to ensure victims get the support and justice they deserve.

“While there is still much more to do, convictions have increased by 15 percent over the last quarter and these measures will drive improvements further.”

The remote measures and last night’s announcement that Rape Crisis England and Wales (RCEW) will operate the new 24/7 helpline service are key pledges within the Government’s Rape Review Action Plan.

There has been a 15 percent increase in the number of people convicted for rape offences in the last three months.

There were 467 convictions last quarter (October to December 2021), compared to 407, 398 and 376 in the quarters before.

Total completed prosecutions for rape cases have increased by 10 percent from 600 (July – September 2021) to 661 (October-December 2021).

The average number of days for adult rape from CPS charge to the case being completed continued to fall, down by 38 days (8.3 percent) since the peak in June 2021 – down from 457 days to 419 in October – December 2021.

Making evidence via video possible for victims of rape and sexual offences follows the successful implementation for vulnerable victims, such as children or those who have limited mental capacity, to all crown courts in England and Wales – with more than 2,500 witnesses having already benefitted from the technology since August 2020.

The government has also announced it will fund victim support services on a multi-year basis – with at least £147m per year up to 2025 but says charities and service providers should plan for the future, build capacity and help even more victims.