Vulnerable victims and witnesses across Sussex no longer have to face their perpetrator in court

22/08/2019

Victims and witnesses can now give court evidence remotely from newly opened victim suites in central and East Sussex.

The two suites, which follow the success of a suite opened two years ago in West Sussex, make the process of giving evidence less traumatising and more convenient.

Following the success of the West Sussex suite, £72,000 of further funding was secured by Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, through the Video Enabled Justice programme, for two further sites in central and East Sussex which opened for the first time today (22nd August).

Mrs Bourne has also funded Victim Support’s Sussex Young Witness Service for the last five years and today met with a carer of two young children who used a live link suite in Sussex to give evidence, leading to successful convictions of their perpetrators.

Victim Support Young Witness Service helps young people (aged 4-18) cope with the impact and effects of crime and give evidence in court proceedings.  Since 2014, they have helped more than 1,169 young people give evidence against a perpetrator and in 2018 alone their support led to a total of over 272 years in custodial sentences.  

Support to young witnesses of crime is now shared with Citizens Advice Outreach Witness Service which also helps young people attending Magistrates’ Courts in Sussex.  

Now officially up and running, these further two remote sites will give these vulnerable victims and witnesses even greater opportunity to give evidence in a safe, secure and supported environment – hopefully leading to even more successful convictions.

Mrs Bourne comments:

“Victims and witnesses already take a brave step in coming forward so it’s crucial that the criminal justice system supports and not re-traumatises them. It’s even more vital that we support our younger victims and witnesses because the process can be even more traumatic for them. I’ve been working with the police, courts and victim support services to address this over the last couple of years and we’ve made real progress.

“In 2017 I secured £11m of funding from the Government to implement our Video Enabled Justice programme, working to make the process of giving evidence more efficient and convenient. I also have, and will continue to, support vital local services like the Young Witness Service who work closely with our most vulnerable young victims and witnesses to ensure they’re not overwhelmed and that they get a fair opportunity of achieving justice.

“These new video links are another step towards ensuring that victims and witnesses are truly at the heart of the criminal justice system locally and nationally.”

Frances Amos, Senior Service Delivery Manager, Victim Support’s Young Witness Service comments:

“With the closure of some Crown and Magistrates’ Courts in Sussex this has led to young people and their families having to travel greater distances to Crown Courts to give evidence – sometimes out of the County.

“With the three remote link suites situated in West, Central and East Sussex this will give young and vulnerable victims and witnesses of crime the opportunity to give their evidence in a safe and secure location within a reasonable distance of where they live. 

“The Sussex Young Witness Service is indebted to the continued support and funding received from PCC Katy Bourne. Her innovative approach in supporting three remote link suites in Sussex is a testament to her vision of keeping young and vulnerable victims and witnesses of crime at the centre of the Criminal Justice System.

“With the support of our highly trained team of Young Witness Service Supporters and Caseworkers, we help to lessen the anxiety and stress associated with giving evidence in traumatic and complex trials. With the right support in place, young and vulnerable adults are enabled and empowered to give better evidence.”

If you are interested in volunteering with the Sussex Young Witness Service, please contact: frances.amos@victimsupport.org.uk

Quote from service users:  

“Our support worker was brilliant with the boys, extremely supportive.  Without him they wouldn’t have given evidence.  His help and guidance was superb”

 “The volunteer’s help was invaluable.  I cannot imagine going through the ordeal of my child giving evidence in a Crown Court without their help”

“The support that she gave us was incredibly helpful during what can only be described as a traumatic experience for myself and my three girls”

Assistant Chief Constable Julia Chapman said:

“Attending court can be an intimidating and daunting prospect for some witnesses when called to give evidence. The opening of new victim suites in central and East Sussex allows vulnerable witnesses to give their evidence to the court directly using a video link in a welcoming, safe and secure environment.

“This is a positive step forward in making the criminal justice service more accessible, providing facilities that will support people when they most need it.”   

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