New £950,000 centre for pre-recording evidence from child witnesses
Plans have been announced for a new £950,000 centre to enable children and vulnerable adults to give evidence without attending court.
The new centre will mean more of these witnesses will be be able to pre-record their evidence for criminal trials in advance, meaning they will not face the potentially daunting prospect of attending court.
Based in Glasgow it will include hearing suites and vulnerable witness suites with a video link to court.
There will also be a private evidence room with one-way glass for observation and a sensory room.
The new centre will help deal with an anticipated increase in the number of children giving evidence this way if proposed legislation creating a presumption in favour of this, introduced to the Scottish Parliament in June, is passed.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “This is the latest step towards achieving our ambition that children, wherever possible, should not have to give evidence in court during a criminal trial.
“It will make significant improvements to witnesses’ experience of the justice system in Glasgow.
“I am pleased to hear that there is scope for expansion in Scotland and where appropriate, these suites may also be used for vulnerable adult witnesses.”
Last year Scotland’s second most senior judge, the Lord Justice Clerk, published a practice note for the High Court encouraging greater use of taking evidence by commissioner procedure.
This involves a child or vulnerable witness being questioned by both the prosecution and defence in advance of a trial under the supervision of a judge, and having their evidence recorded.
Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service chief executive Eric McQueen said: “We know from the initial evaluation of the practice note that having the right facilities and environment are critical factors and the new hearings suite in Glasgow will mean that children and vulnerable people can be supported to give their best evidence, and have it tested, in a safe and secure environment.”