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Special measures

CPS publish updated guidance

30 September 2019
Special measures

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has updated their legal guidance on special measures. Special measures were introduced as part of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act (YJCEA) 1999 as a series of provisions to help vulnerable and intimidated witnesses give their best evidence in court and help to relieve some of the stress associated with giving evidence. They apply to prosecution and defence witnesses, but not to the defendant, although courts do have discretion to put in place support (such as an intermediary) for defendants giving evidence.

Vulnerable witnesses are defined under the YJCEA as all child witnesses, or any witness whose quality of evidence is likely to be diminished because they are suffering a mental disorder, have a significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning or have a physical disability or are suffering from a physical disorder. Intimidated witnesses are defined as those suffering from fear or distress in relation to testifying in the case. Complainants in sexual offences, and witnesses to certain offences involving guns and knives, automatically fall into this category unless they opt out.

The special measures available to vulnerable and intimidated witnesses include screens to shield the witness from the defendant, live links to enable evidence to be given from outside the courtroom, the removal of wigs and gowns by judges and barristers, examination of the witness through an intermediary, and aid to communication such as a communicator, interpreter or through a communication aid. These measures should also be considered in relation to any defendants under the age of 18. In addition, the court can appoint an intermediary to support a vulnerable defendant.

Applications of special measures should be made in accordance with part 18 of the Criminal Procedure Rules: Measures to assist a witness or defendant to give evidence and Criminal Practice Direction 3D: vulnerable people in the courts.

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