Sexual offending against children by Jimmy Savile has focused attention on how the criminal justice system treats young and vulnerable complainants and witnesses, attorney general Dominic Grieve QC said last week.
However, Grieve rejected the idea of dispensing with the adversarial system for cases involving vulnerable participants, instead stressing the responsibility of all involved to ensure that witnesses and defendants are properly treated.
He was speaking at the launch of Advocate’s Gateway, which provides free online access to guidance on handling vulnerable victims, defendants and witnesses.
At the event, Nick Green QC, a former Bar Council chairman and chairman of the Advocacy Training Council, called for judges to improve the way children and vulnerable people are questioned in criminal trials.
The gateway provides 11 toolkits covering children, people with an autism spectrum disorder and those with hidden disabilities.
The toolkits explain best practice and contain examples and transcripts from real cases highlighting questions likely to produce unreliable answers.
Other toolkits are planned on mental illness, deafness, voice disorders, communication aids and the use of remote live links.Grieve said the government is constantly looking for new ways to support and protect vulnerable witnesses.
He announced that the Ministry of Justice is in discussions with a number of organisations about potential pilots of pre-recorded cross-examination.
The Advocate’s Gateway is a collaboration across the legal professions, judiciary, charities and government, including the Law Society, Bar Council, Criminal Bar Association and the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates.