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Crown Prosecution Service statement on James Watts

06/11/2009

James Watts, a driver for a care home for severely disabled adults, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment following his conviction on four counts of sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder by a care worker and two counts of sexual assault.

Ann Hampshire, Crown Advocate for the Crown Prosecution Service in Devon and Cornwall, said: "This case was particularly unusual because of the very severe disabilities each witness had, and it raised many issues in terms of supporting the victims and witnesses through the difficult process of giving evidence in court. The victims' disabilities make it very difficult for them to communicate, and the Crown Prosecution Service worked hard to ensure that they could give the best evidence possible by using what we call 'special measures'.

"Their initial accounts were video recorded and this evidence was played to the jury. We provided expert intermediaries, who are independent and impartial, to assist the victims in court by interpreting their methods of communication so that they would be able to tell the jury what had happened to them in cross-examination.

"We also arranged for a video link to be installed at the residential home where the victims live, to enable them to remain in a familiar environment and to ensure that their individual care needs could be met.  There was also considerable support from one dedicated volunteer of the witness service who spent many hours with the witnesses and the intermediary prior to the trial to explain the court process, how the video link would work and how the oath would be administered.

"Crimes involving a breach of trust like this are extremely serious. People working in the care sector, whether they are care workers, managers, drivers, catering staff or in any other role have a duty of care to the people with whom they work. The Crown Prosecution Service will robustly prosecute offences that involve a breach of that duty where there is sufficient evidence. These offences are aggravated by the vulnerability of the victims, and the courts are likely to impose harsher penalties on people who are convicted of them."

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