Northern Ireland

CJI says vulnerable witnesses need more support

Criminal Justice inspectors have said justice agencies need to re-double their efforts to identify vulnerable or intimidated witnesses who need special support to give evidence in court.

The report by the Criminal Justice Inspection (CJI) said more protection needs to be given to them.

It makes 20 recommendations to improve support for witnesses.

The deputy chief inspector of the CJI, Brendan McGuigan is calling for a witness charter to be put in place.

"It will make it very clear to victims and witnesses the obligations and the responsibilities of the criminal justice organisations in terms of their treatment and ensuring that they are given the sort of treatment that is required to enable them with confidence to give their testimony before the court," he said.

Justice Minister David Ford said: "Over the two years I have served as justice minister, I have put in place a series of reforms to improve services to victims and witnesses in the justice system.

'Stressful'

"This report by the Criminal Justice Inspection proves that these reforms are having a positive impact and I am determined that this important work will continue so that services improve."

Welcoming the report, deputy director of Public Prosecutions, Pamela Atchison said: "PPS recognises that giving evidence at court can be a difficult and stressful experience and that it is particularly so for vulnerable or intimidated victims and witnesses.

"Police and PPS are working together to improve the services provided and in September 2011 established a Joint Special Measures Action Group to identify and deliver continual improvements in this area."

George Hamilton, Assistant Chief Constable, said: "As a service we continually strive to improve the quality of service and support we provide to victims and witnesses, particularly those most vulnerable or intimidated.

"However we recognise there is work to be done to ensure we meet the personal needs and expectations of victims and witnesses on every occasion."

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