The use of video technology to give evidence in cases involving crimes including sexual abuse and rape could be set to triple under new plans announced by the Ministry of Justice.
It’s said victims in as many as 4,600 cases could pre-record evidence ahead of the main trial. To support this expansion, the government plans to pay barristers specifically for this work as part of a drive to invest more in criminal legal aid.
Victims of crimes including rape and sexual assault have been able to pre-record their cross-examination ahead of trial in every Crown Court in England and Wales since September.
The increase in barristers’ fees will see lawyers paid £804, including VAT, for carrying out this work and ensure they are further incentivised to undertake the pre-recorded parts of these trials, potentially boosting capacity further and increasing rape convictions.
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said:
“We have overhauled the support victims of rape receive and this latest investment will mean more have their voices heard in court without retraumatising them.
Paying barristers specifically for this work will help make sure more victims have this option and is another part of our work to boost rape convictions.”
Pre-recorded cross-examination technology is available to certain victims of sexual and modern slavery offences in all Crown Courts in England and Wales. It is also available to vulnerable victims, such as children and those whose quality of evidence is likely to be diminished because of a mental or physical condition.
Measures allow for evidence to be given as close to the time of the offence as possible while memories remain fresh, increasing the likelihood of vulnerable witnesses achieving justice.
It is designed to maintain a defendant’s right to a fair trial and any decision to pre-record evidence is made by a judge on a case-by-case basis.
This new fee for lawyers taking evidence in this way applies to all new cases from 1st February 2023.