HC Deb 12 March 1996 vol 273 cc540-1W
Mr. Alex Carlile

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the treatment of victims and witnesses in child abuse cases. [20024]

Mr. Maclean

The Government have introduced a range of measures in recent years to make it easier for children in these cases to give their evidence. The Criminal Justice Act 1988 made provision for children, with the leave of the court, to give their evidence by live television link so that they need never appear in court. The Criminal Justice Act 1991 prohibited the defendant from cross-examining the child and provided for a video-recorded interview to serve as the child's evidence-in-chief at the trial, again with the leave of the court.

These changes have helped to reduce stress for children who have to give evidence, but we are determined to implement further improvements. The Criminal Procedure and Investigations Bill provides for binding rulings to be made so that children will have greater certainty about whether a video-recorded interview will be admitted as evidence-in-chief and whether they can give their evidence by live television link. We are pursuing a range of other measures, including further consideration of ways to reduce delays, improved arrangements for preparing the child for what to expect and promoting best practice in dealing with child witnesses, which will secure practical benefits for children.

Mr. Carlile

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what training is undertaken by those responsible for the video taping of victims' evidence in child abuse cases; and if he will make a statement. [20025]

Mr. Maclean

The Government issued a memorandum of good practice following the introduction of the measures in the Criminal Justice Act 1991 which allow a video-recorded interview with the child to serve as their evidence-in-chief. The memorandum was drawn up with the assistance of professionals and organisations with the experience of working with abused children and provides practical guidance to police officers and social workers who conduct video-taped interviews.

Number of offenders convicted, at all courts, for certain crimes 1984–94
England and Wales
Offence description 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
Violent crime1 58,496 58,564 53,201 58,925 65,450 70,890 69,215 63,599 61,596 57,335 58,408
Car crime>2 37,651 37,821 35,048 35,214 32,735 29,836 30,252 30,472 24,914 22,091 21,612
Serious crime3 449,449 443,936 384,209 386,419 386,236 339,547 342,759 337,608 324,910 307,584 314,148
1 Includes the indictable offence groups of violence against the person, sexual offences and robbery and the summary offences of common assault.
2 Includes the indictable offences of theft from a vehicle, theft or unauthorised taking of a motor vehicle, aggravated vehicle taking and the summary offences of stealing and unauthorised taking of a conveyance and aggravated vehicle taking.
3 Taken as all indicatable, including triable either way, offences (including those in (1) and (2) above).

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