Chief Prosecutor encourages Londoners to help shape new guidelines for victims and witnesses

03/03/2015

CPS London’s Chief Crown Prosecutor, Baljit Ubhey, has urged the people of London to help shape new CPS guidelines for victims and witnesses giving evidence in court by taking part in a public consultation.

The consultation is particularly significant for the capital as CPS London is the biggest CPS Area and deals with approximately 20% of the organisation's caseload and around 25% of the organisation's trials. With only less than two weeks until the consultation closes [on 16 March] Ms Ubhey is keen to encourage people to have their say so that we can improve our support to victims and witnesses giving evidence in court.

The new proposals outline for the first time the need to better assist victims and witnesses so they know more about what to expect before they give evidence. If implemented, the guidance will ensure victims are, for example, informed of the general nature of the defence case or if their own character is to be questioned in the witness box.

Ms Ubhey, said: "I would encourage all Londoners to let us know their views as part of this consultation. In London we deal with more cases and more trials than any other CPS Area so it is really important for Londoners to have their say.

"Our service to victims and witnesses is extremely important to us and we want to make sure they get the help and support they need.

"The evidence of victims and witnesses is tremendously important and we know that the courtroom can be a daunting place to those that have never experienced it before. These guidelines aim to ensure that victims and witnesses are able to give their best possible evidence in court."

The public consultation on the new guidelines was launched on 19 January by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, and will close on 16 March.

The Director's proposed guidance reassures prosecutors that they can tell victims more of what is likely to happen at court. Specifically, the guidance will instruct prosecutors, both in-house from the CPS and from the self-employed bar, to:

  • Inform witnesses about the general nature of the defence case where known (e.g. mistaken identification, consent, self-defence, lack of intent)
  • Inform witnesses of the fact that third party material has been disclosed to the defence which is capable of undermining the prosecution case (e.g. social services, medical or counselling records)
  • Inform witnesses if leave has been granted to the defence to cross examine them on bad character or sexual history
  • Introduce themselves to witnesses and explain their role
  • Explain court procedure, including the oath taking and the order of the questions from various parties
  • Encourage witnesses to ask the advocate or judge to repeat or rephrase the question should they not understand
  • Remind witnesses that if they cannot recall an answer to a particular question, they should not be afraid to say so
  • Encourage witnesses to refresh their memory by asking to see their witness statement and go through it before answering questions in court
  • Explain the role of defence advocates and encourage witnesses to say clearly whether they agree or disagree with any suggestion put to them
  • Encourage witnesses to ask for a break from questioning should they genuinely need one to restore concentration or compose themselves emotionally

For the full national press release click here.