The government is hoping to help victims and witnesses feel less traumatised about giving evidence in court by investing £80,000 in five new waiting rooms, complete with children's toys.
The waiting rooms have been established at Nottingham Justice Centre, Manchester Magistrates' Court, Newcastle Crown Court and Aldershot Justice Centre. Work is ongoing at Liverpool Crown Court.
The government says the waiting rooms 'will provide a template for courts nationwide'. Those that won't benefit from having new waiting rooms are the 86 courts and tribunals the government earmarked for closure last year, and Camberwell Green and Hammersmith magistrates' courts, which were added to the list in February.
Around 156,000 victims and witnesses give evidence every year.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service said today it worked closely with stakeholders including the Victims' Commissioner, the Witness Service and court users.
Baroness Newlove, victims' commissioner for England and Wales, said: 'The court process can be a traumatic experience for victims and any attempt to make this environment less impersonal and more comfortable is most definitely a positive step.'
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said providing a 'welcoming space' for child witnesses is particularly important.
The government used today's announcement to highlight other measures it has introduced to reduce court attendees' anxiety. These include giving evidence behind a screen and using registered intermediaries. In criminal courts, the government is 'driving' the increasing use of video links.
HMCTS said an assessment of criminal courts to ensure they are properly equipped for victims and witnesses 'will provide a yardstick for key improvements across the estate'.
'A range of work will be carried out in the coming months to improve the information available to victims and witnesses before coming to court - making the often painful process clearer and easier to understand,' the government added.