HL Deb 01 April 1987 vol 486 cc573-4

2.55 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to relieve child victims of physical and sexual abuse from the trauma of giving evidence in court.

The Minister of State, Home Office (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, the Criminal Justice Bill before another place would permit a child under 14 to give evidence at the Crown Court by live video link at the trial of an offence involving sex or violence.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very encouraging reply. The National Children's Home, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children and the NSPCC pay tribute to the Government for supporting this part of the Criminal Justice Bill. Is there any possibility of the Government looking into the position of children giving evidence by video at the time or directly after the incident has happened and that video being used in court?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her words of support. Indeed, yesterday in another place my honourable friend Mr. Mellor said that we are extremely well disposed to looking at such a proposal but we should of course want to consult all the interested groups first.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, will the Minister take it for granted that the Government's view in regard to these dreadful cases is one that is shared in all parts of your Lordships' House? Will the noble Earl also consider whether there is a case for examining the possibility of corroborative evidence being available and in that event the prosecution being able to rely upon that corroborative evidence without subjecting a child to any cross-examination at all?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his support and I hope that it will apply to the rest of the Criminal Justice Bill when it reaches this House. With regard to his second point, as the noble Lord knows far better than I do, under our law there has always been a right of prosecution. I shall look very carefully at the point that lie has made and discuss it with my right honourable and honourable friends.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, will the Minister be kind enough to take the position that has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, very seriously indeed? I welcome the fact that a video from a child would be acceptable to a judge and jury but nevertheless the prosecution could demand that the child be brought into court in any case. That is what we dread about the whole issue.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that, along with all the other matters in the Criminal Justice Bill, we take this matter extremely seriously. As I said, I shall discuss it with my right honourable and honourable friends.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether it is likely that the Government will have completed their investigative inquiry with regard to video-taped interviews before the Criminal Justice Bill comes to this House, or will it be after?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, it certainly will not be before, because, as I understand it, it is hoped that the Bill will arrive here fairly shortly. Whether our full consultations are achieved during the passage of the Bill before your Lordships' House is something that I do not know at the moment.

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