New evidence suite will help witnesses

The new remote evidence suite.
The new remote evidence suite.

The North East now has a remote evidence suite, designed to make vulnerable or intimidated witnesses more comfortable.

The suite, which was opened by Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird last week, is away from Newcastle’s court building, in another part of the city, and will offer the possibility, subject to a judge’s consent on a case-by-case basis, to give evidence to the court from the suite, over a live television link.

This can help to give confidence to complainants who are vulnerable or intimidated that they may never need to go to court.

It is expected that more people who have doubts about giving evidence will feel able to do so if they are allowed to use this location.

It is in the public interest that victims and witnesses of crime should testify if they can.

The suite was funded by the Home Office’s innovation funding, which was secured by Ms Baird to help improve the criminal justice experience, particularly for children and vulnerable adults.

She said: “I am pleased to have won funding from the Home Office to open one of the first suites of this kind right here in Northumbria.

“My responsibility to work with partners for an efficient and effective criminal justice system and the force’s victim focus have come together to make sure that, subject to judicial agreement on a case-by-case basis, complainants who are vulnerable or intimidated by the prospect of going to court can still give evidence.

“They can use this new suite to talk to the court over a television link from pleasant and secure surroundings.

“It should encourage more people to agree to give testimony and limit the opportunities for any interference and more offenders are likely to be brought to justice as a consequence.”

Judge Sloan, the Honorary Recorder of Newcastle, said that for a wide variety of vulnerable witnesses, ‘attending a court building can be a particularly traumatic experience, thereby diminishing the quality of the evidence they are able to give’.

He added: “The provision of a remote link site is an extremely welcome initiative.”