Rape complainants won't have to give evidence live in court

Complainants in rape cases will not have to give evidence live in court under Government reforms.

From September, cross-examination will be pre-recorded and played to the jury during the trial, Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss said.

The change was not planned to start until next year but has been brought forward with the agreement of senior judges.

Ms Truss said: "Attitudes to sex crimes and victims have changed beyond all recognition in our lifetime, and rape prosecutions are now at record levels.

"With more victims now finding the confidence to come forward, I am determined to make their path to justice swifter and less traumatic.

"This will not reduce the right to a fair trial, but will make sure victims of these abhorrent crimes are protected and able provide their best possible evidence."

A pilot programme showed that pre-recording evidence meant victims felt less pressure and were able to recall events more easily.

Gabrielle Brown was raped while running alongside a canal and, despite police catching her rapist within minutes of their arrival at the scene, it took another two years for her case to come to court.

Ms Brown's case ended in a plea deal so she did not have to go through cross-examination but she told Sky News she was still "prepared for it".

She added: "Because the guilty plea by my offender happened at the very last minute, the most important thing to me was that he would be prevented from ever carrying out that sort of assault to another female again.

"I do, however, completely understand the trauma of that cross-examination and absolutely if filming the evidence beforehand saves the lives of those poor women who very unfortunately have not received the support they needed and have ended up taking their own lives, then absolutely going through cross-examination is not worth the loss of life."

The plans come after Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts launched a private members bill to stop alleged rape victims being quizzed about their sexual history or appearance.

She told Sky News: "I think the effect of this is it will make the process stronger and that in itself will make rape victims more confident that they will have justice in court."

But others looked at the plans more dubiously, with Margaret Gardener, the director of the False Allegations Support Organisation, telling Sky News: "Justice is: one is innocent until proven guilty.

"By Ms Truss changing the system to the way it is, how does that equate to 'innocence until proven guilty' and the justice system that's supposed to be equal for all?"

Meanwhile, a new offence of "sexual communication with a child" comes into force next month and will carry a maximum two year prison sentence and automatically inclusion on the sex offenders register.

Ms Truss said: "In a world of mobile phones and social media, our children are ever more vulnerable to those who prey on their innocence and exploit their trust."

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