With effect from 3 June 2019, s.28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (YJCEA) in respect of s.16 (assistance for witnesses by virtue of age or incapacity) is in force in the Crown Courts at Bradford, Carlisle, Durham, Mold and Sheffield. This is an extension from the three pilot courts involved in the initial rollout of pre-recorded cross-examinations in circumstances where s.16 applies.
The Statutory Instrument further extends the provision in the YJCEA to witnesses eligible for assistance by virtue of s.17(4) of the Act (complainants in respect of a sexual offence or modern slavery offence who are witnesses in proceedings relating to that offence or that offence and any other offences). The three courts piloting this extension are Liverpool, Leeds and Kingston-upon-Thames.
Advocates involved in these cases and at these court centres will know that the scheme was first introduced in 2013 and an evaluation in 2016 found that alleged victims felt under less pressure by being able to give pre-trial evidence and witnesses said they were better able to recall events. The Ministry of Justice reported that this led to an increased number of early guilty pleas and a reduced number of cracked trials.