Photo Opportunity:

  • Date: Wednesday September 21st 2016
  • Time: 0900-10.00am
  • Location: St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)
  • Event: Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner conducts live link to Minshull Street Crown Square using St Mary’s SARC Remote Court Link.

A new remote video link to court that lets people who have experienced sexual violence give evidence directly from the St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) was officially launched this week.

The new live link will mean that some of the most vulnerable witnesses will be able to give their evidence and be cross examined without having to enter a court room or a court building and is one of a number of measures to help reduce the anxiety, trauma and stress many people experience when going to court.

The new remote video link has been made possible through funding from the Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Lloyd*. A total of £109,000 has been invested in creating a secure, specially adapted area of St Mary’s SARC that can be accessed by an entrance that is separate from the main SARC further the reducing the stress experienced.

Dr Catherine White, Clinical Director at the St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre, said: “Many of our clients tell us they find the prospect of going to court to give evidence terrifying. It is hoped that this additional option, of using the live link, will remove some of this fear and ensure that clients provide the best possible evidence to the court.

“During our pilot period six clients, including 3 young children opted to use the live link to provide their evidence direct to court. Feedback has been excellent and we are confident this measure will broaden the choices available to our clients. Our team of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors provide vital support during court trials and this will be further reinforced by the remote video link at St Mary’s SARC.”

Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester’s Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Victims and survivors of sexual assault have already made a brave step in coming forward so it’s crucial that the criminal justice system supports them, not cause them more distress. Many victims say that the court process is as traumatic as their original ordeal. I’ve been working with the police, courts and support services to address this.

“This new video link will be a lifeline to vulnerable people who understandably don’t want to face the ordeal of a courtroom, so they can give evidence in a way that makes them feel secure. It is another step towards ensuring that victims and witnesses are truly at the heart of the criminal justice system.”

The remote video link is one of a number of special measures available to vulnerable witnesses that include the option of giving their evidence from behind a screen, via video link from a different part of the court or now, via remote video link not within the court building. All applications for special measures are agreed by the court in advance. His Honour Judge Michael Leeming at Crown Square Manchester helped shape the protocol now used for evidence given from the St Mary’s Centre.

Users of the video link will be met at St Mary’s SARC by an usher from the Crown Court who will sit with them in the room while they give evidence. A live link into the court room will enable barrister to cross examine the witnesses and the court room and jurors will be able to clearly see the witness on a television screen.

A separate area has been created within the remote video link suite for family and carers who accompany witnesses.

The remote video link is currently operational in all Greater Manchester Crown Courts including Crown Square and Minshull Street and Bolton Crown Courts.

The project has been developed through successful partnerships developed between St Mary’s SARC, Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, Manchester’s Witness Care Unit, Greater Manchester Police and Witness Service and the Crown Prosecution Service.

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