Letter: Courts add insult to victims' injury

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Sir: There is a glaring omission in the survey of criminal justice for the Royal Commission (9 December): neither victims nor other witnesses were asked for their views. An independent survey by researchers from the University of Birmingham, published by Victim Support in 1991, found that prosecution witnesses felt fear at the prospect of appearing in court, exacerbated by inadequate notice of hearings, lack of information about court proceedings and shared waiting areas. In particular:

More than 50 per cent were worried by their witness order, threatening jail for non-attendance.

37 per cent of witnesses had their hearings postponed; 70 per cent of these were not told until they arrived at court.

60 per cent of witnesses had to wait in the same area as the defendant and his or her relatives and friends.

If attending court is an ordeal for witnesses, they will not give evidence well. A bad court experience may make them reluctant to report a crime in the future. No investigation into justice in this country can afford to ignore the people who have been most deeply affected by the crime.

Yours faithfully,


Director, Victim Support

London, SW9