Children could be cross-examined before trial takes place

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Proposals aimed at putting victims and witnesses at the heart of the criminal justice system have been unveiled.

Under consideration are legislative changes to allow the cross-examination of all witnesses under the age of 18, and those identified as vulnerable, to be pre-recorded.

It would include victims of sexual violence and rape.

Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson, who has been working with UK Victims Commissioner Baroness Newlove, said: ‘We want to put victims and witnesses at the very heart of these reforms.

‘Pre-recording the cross-examination of witnesses would ensure they are not kept waiting while the wheels of justice turn. It would help them to move on and recover from the harm they have suffered without the worry of giving evidence in a courtroom hanging over them.’

The proposal was welcomed by Victim Support Isle of Man. Manager Paula Gelling said it was ‘necessary to prevent unnecessary distress to vulnerable and young victims and witnesses’.

A court case can normally take, on average, 12 months from the reporting or charging stage to trial.

‘For a young person that is far too long to be worrying about the court case and the process which they may not fully understand,’ she said.

‘In addition, the young or vulnerable person cannot access full therapeutic psychological support or counselling prior to a court trial as they should not discuss what happened.’

Miss Gelling said: ‘Recently, there was a case whereby three child victims, all of young primary school age, were due to give evidence some 18 months after the crime.

‘At that age, their recollection and explanation of events 18 months earlier would have been difficult. Also their access to psychological support couldn’t start until after the trial. That is unacceptable.

‘If their testimony had been pre-recorded, that would have facilitated their access to treatment earlier, their recovery would have been quicker and justice would still have been fair to all parties.’

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