'Unsung heroes' who support victims and witnesses through often traumatic court experiences will be honoured for the first time today at an awards ceremony organised by the government.
Categories at the 'Celebrating Services for Witnesses', which takes place at Nottingham Trent University this evening, are: unsung hero award (individual); specialist support award (team or individual); frontline services award (individual); significant improvements award (team or individual); partnership award (team); and the Victim's Commissioner award (team or individual).
Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, presiding judge of the Midlands, said the awards 'are a wonderful opportunity to thank, honour and encourage the many volunteers, professionals and agencies who do vital work in our courts up and down the country helping and supporting victims and witnesses.'
These include witness liaison officers in courts, who make sure the court is doing all it can to make a witness's experience easier; a courts operations manager who ensures waiting rooms are comfortable and reassuring; or a volunteer for the Witness Service charity, who provides emotional support and practical advice.
The government has been keen to highlight its work to help victims and witnesses. In August HMCTS announced it was investing £80,000 in five new waiting rooms, complete with children's toys, to help victims and witnesses feel less traumatised when they give evidence in court. Future measures include banning men with a record of violence or sexual abuse from cross-examining vulnerable partners or children in family courts.
Susan Acland-Hood, chief executive of HM Courts & Tribunals Service, said: 'It is vital that we make sure victims and witnesses feel as comfortable and confident as possible, allowing them to give their best evidence and help to make sure justice is done.'
The ceremony is being supported by the university's law school, Crown Prosecution Service, defence lawyers, British Transport Police and Citizens Advice Witness Service.