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Witnesses in fear of attack

Criminals are escaping justice because victims and witnesses are too frightened of intimidation if they go to court, writes Heather Mills.

According to Victim Support, little is done to protect victims or witnesses. Some of those who do go into the witness box subsequently suffer abuse or violence from the offender, his or her friends or family.

In one case a 16-year-old girl raped by four men was beaten up by a gang of her attackers' friends a week after she had given evidence at the men's trial.In another a young victim of racist violence who had given police the names of his attackerswas beaten senseless with baseball bats days later.

Victim Support yesterdaycalled for changes to investigation and court procedures to protect witnesses - including keeping their names and addresses secret where necessary, allowing some to give evidence from behind screens or via television links, and providing separate waiting areas for prosecution and defence witnesses in courts.

Helen Reeves, director, told the support group's conference: "There is no justice if people are too frightened to go to the police or to give evidence."