CSE Awareness Day: Key Issues Part 2

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) awareness day: our staff discuss new or key issues that professionals working in the field need to be focussing on

We asked some of our staff about new or common issues they come across when working with young people at risk of and affected by sexual exploitation to find out where the focus should be so awareness can be more targeted.

PART 2: We asked our Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA) about the upcoming roll-out of pre-recorded cross-examination for vulnerable victims and witnesses.

About out ISVA

Our ISVA provides practical and emotional support for victims of sexual abuse who are involved in a police investigation. All ISVAs are independent from statutory agencies such as Police and Social Care. ISVAs are crucial in helping victims understand what their options are, their rights and what services are available to them. Victims of sexual abuse, violence and exploitation are entitled to an enhanced service from agencies within the Criminal Justice System (CJS) which includes the provision of an ISVA, should they wish to access one. Safe and Sound see this as a vital part of the support service we offer to young people affected by sexual abuse and exploitation.

Section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999

Our ISVA said she was disappointed in how long it was taking for Section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (YJCEA) to be rolled out.

Section 28 allows vulnerable and intimidated witnesses to video record their cross-examination before the trial. This forms part of measures to support vulnerable victims or witnesses to give best evidence and help reduce the potential anxiety of being cross-examined live in court in front of large numbers of people.

Section 28 has been piloted in Leeds, Liverpool and Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Courts from December 2013 for child witnesses under the age of 16. The pilot began by identifying cases with vulnerable witnesses who might be suitable for pre-recording of their cross-examination. In such cases where pre-recorded evidence was used, a DVD was played to the jury instead of the vulnerable witness having to attend court in the traditional way to be cross-examined in front of a jury.

The evaluation of the pre-recorded cross-examination pilot was undertaken to help understand whether the pilot processes worked as intended and to help inform decisions on whether and how best to roll out more widely and this was published in 2016.

Our ISVA said: “The national roll-out of Section 28 is supposed to begin this year, but it has already taken far too long to get to this stage.”

The Criminal Law and Justice Weekly and The Law Society Gazette reported that the roll-out had already suffered set-backs due to technical issues which was likely responsible for the delay but that it was finally due to be in place across Crown Courts in England and Wales this year. The findings from the pilot state that the success of the roll-out is largely in the hands of judges and practitioners.

In the pilot phase, the judge and often an intermediary would assess the planned defence questions. The evaluation of the pilots has revealed a lack of intermediaries which would need to be recruited in order for Section 28 to be successfully rolled-out. Training would also need to be provided for those advocates that would be questioning vulnerable witnesses.

Our ISVA said “We understand that rolling out a big change such as this takes time. We need to ensure courts, judges, intermediaries, advocates and other practitioners within the Criminal Justice System (CJS) are fully trained and aware of this addition to the Act to make sure that vulnerable victims and witnesses everywhere are offered this as a service. There have previously been inconsistencies around offering an ISVA service to vulnerable young victims of sexual abuse and exploitation in courts and we don’t want to see the same thing happen with the option to provide pre-recorded evidence. The roll-out needs to be thorough and consistent in order to benefit the young victims it is has been designed to support and in doing so, it will hopefully gain the CJS much better evidence and improve conviction rates for perpetrators of sexual abuse crimes.”

If you would like to discuss the potential for ISVA support for a young person you are working with, please call 01332 362120. Please do not email details of a young person to or from unsecured email accounts.

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