Alleged victims of sexual and modern slavery offences can now pre-record cross-examination evidence in certain crown courts, the Ministry of Justice has announced.

In Leeds, Liverpool and Kingston upon Thames, witnesses who feel intimidated in cases relating to sexual and modern-day slavery offences can record their cross-examination evidence before trials start. 

The Ministry of Justice has also extended a scheme which allows children and vulnerable witnesses to avoid live cross-examination to six more crown courts.

In Bradford, Carlisle, Chester, Durham, Mold and Sheffield, child witnesses under 16 and witnesses vulnerable by reason of physical or mental disability can now record cross-examinations ahead of time. 

This scheme was first introduced in 2013 and a process evaluation in 2016 found alleged victims felt less pressure giving pre-trial evidence and witnesses were better able to recall events. This led to an increased number of early guilty pleas and a reduced number of cracked trials, said the Ministry of Justice.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: ‘Pre-recording cross-examination can spare victims and witnesses the trauma of facing the accused in court, enabling them to give their best evidence, but it is vital we test the technology fully before a wider roll out.’

The announcement comes two years after the scheme triggered a row between the judiciary and former justice secretary Liz Truss. Truss was criticised by Lord Thomas, former lord chief justice, in 2017 for causing confusion after he suggested she incorrectly described the reforms to the public.