Pilot scheme at Sheffield Crown Court aimed to improve experience for victims and witnesses

Sheffield Crown Court
Sheffield Crown Court

Witnesses and victims of crime in Sheffield are to be given more information by prosecutors about what to expect at court despite concerns it may lead to accusations of coaching witnesses.

In a pilot scheme to be carried out at Sheffield Crown Court from October, prosecutors will speak to witnesses and victims of crime about the cases they are asked to give evidence in.

They will be provided more information about the general nature of the defence’s case, including information that would not previously have been divulged.

But prosecutors are not allowed to discuss the specific questions a witness is likely to face.

The aim is to improve the courtroom experience for witnesses.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, said: “Giving evidence is one of the most important public duties that we can be asked to perform and so it is absolutely right that we assist victims and witnesses to give the best evidence possible, as free as possible from stress or shock, whilst at the same time protecting the fundamental rights of defendants to a fair trial.”

Mark Castle, chief executive of Victim Support, said: “The main worry for many is the process of giving evidence and being cross examined.

“It is right that victims and witnesses should be given more information about their case, and in particular the nature of the defence, so that they can be better prepared to give their best evidence.”

Crown Prosecution Service paralegals will be required to take notes when prosecutors meet victims and witnesses to explain the general nature of the defence’s case, in a bid to address concerns that prosecutors may be accused of coaching witnesses.