Many vulnerable and intimidated* victims and witnesses are eligible for what are termed Special Measures.
The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 defines vulnerable witnesses as follows:
- children under 18 years of age
- children or adults who have a
- mental disorder (i.e. those with a mental health diagnosis such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or anxiety disorder)
- impairment in intelligence or social functioning (i.e. those with a learning disability or with autistic spectrum communication difficulties)
- physical disability (i.e. those with Cerebral Palsy and other neurological or physical difficulties that affect communication)
Vulnerable and intimidated* witnesses are eligible for a range of Special Measures, both when giving evidence and during cross examination. These measures include:
- the use of video recorded police interviews (called ABEs – Achieving Best Evidence) instead of written statements
- the removal of wigs and gowns by barristers in order to look less alien
- cross examination at court via a live TV link OR
- cross examination behind a screen or curtain, thus shielded from sight of the defendant.
Additionally, and crucially, vulnerable witnesses are eligible for support of communication by Registered Intermediaries (Section 29); and the use of special communication aids if the witness has need of these (Section 30).
Police and Crown Prosecution Service request certain Special Measures for a victim or witness, and it is then for the Court to decide which measures will be granted. The needs of each individual victim or witness must be considered as follows:
- whether they meet the criteria for being considered vulnerable or intimidated
- whether Special Measures will improve the quality of their evidence
- which specific measures will improve the quality of their evidence
For examples of Special Measures in action see Mini Case Studies.
*Although some Special Measures are also made available to intimidated witnesses, namely those individuals whose quality of evidence is likely to be diminished by reason of fear or distress (cf. Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999), Registered Intermediaries are not required to work with this group.