Pre-recorded evidence for rape victims rolled out across Wales’ courts in bid to improve conviction rates
Rape victims will be “spared the stress” of being cross-examined in court under a measure rolled out to every Crown Court in Wales by the UK Government this week.
The provision – which is already available in 47 of England’s Crown Courts – allows victims and witnesses of crimes such as rape and modern slavery to have their cross-examination video-recorded and played later during trail. This is subject to a successful application to the court.
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 live trial, which many find traumatic, the UK Government said.
From this week, all six Crown Courts in Wales will now offer this support, including in Caernarfon, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Mold, Newport and Swansea.
Secretary of State for Wales Robert Buckland said: “To improve conviction rates for rape and sexual violence it is vital that victims can provide the best possible evidence and are not further traumatised by their experiences in court.
“Video evidence works and is part of our ongoing programme to transform the criminal justice system so victims are at its centre. I helped begin this work during my previous role in government and I am delighted to see these measures being rolled out in every crown court in Wales.”
Justice remains an area reserved to the UK Government.
The latest figures show that across Wales there was a 13 percent increase in prosecutions for adult rape in 2021 compared to 2019.
However, Wales has the lowest rape conviction rate of the 14 Crown Prosecution Service regions, with only two-thirds of those prosecuted eventually convicted of the crime.
The UK Government said that the expansion of pre-recorded evidence is a key pledge within the government’s Rape Review Action Plan.
More than 2,500 witnesses having already benefitted from the technology since August 2020, they said.
Welsh Women’s Aid Chief Executive Sara Kirkpatrick said: “Special measures to ensure that victims and witnesses are not further traumatised by their experiences through the courts are a vital component of a victim centred criminal justice system.
“We welcome that all crown courts across Wales will now have the facility to use pre-recorded evidence of victims, which will help to provide scope and flexibility for individuals to engage with historically intimidating justice systems.
“While video evidence is a proactive and positive step in addressing issues of distrust and low public confidence, it must be just one improved element in a wider, systemic change that places survivors at the centre of all processes.”
Last month, the UK Government published the latest Rape Review Progress report and committed to piloting specialist rape support in three courtrooms as recommended by the Joint Inspectorates of the CPS and Police.
This would offer support, such as Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, within the court itself, as well as providing trauma training to court staff, they said. These courtrooms will be set up at Snaresbrook Crown Court in London as well as Leeds and Newcastle Crown Courts.
Today’s announcement follows on recent government action to make our streets safer and increase confidence in the justice system, including the publication of a draft Victims’ Bill.
The legislation seeks to amplify victims’ voices, and places greater accountability on agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and police for the service they provide to them, they said.
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, said: “While rape convictions are up two thirds in the last year, we are determined to ensure even more victims get the justice they deserve.
“That’s why we have rolled out pre-recorded evidence to seven more crown courts – to spare more rape victims the trauma of testifying in the glare of the courtroom.
“We are also recruiting more independent sexual violence advisors, piloting specialist rape support in courts, delivering a new Victims’ Bill and boosting collaboration between police and prosecutors.”
The measure is also designed to maintain a defendant’s right to a fair trial and any decision to pre-record evidence is made by a judge on a case-by-case basis.
It will mean that 54 Crown Courts can offer pre-recorded evidence – nearly two thirds of all Crown Courts in England and Wales. The government is committed to rolling it out across the rest of England by September 2022.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.