BOURNEMOUTH will be one of 14 crown courts to offer more protection to victims of rape and sexual offences.

Victims will be spared the stress of being cross-examined in court under a new measure rolled out today.

The scheme, which has already been successful in 12 crown courts, allows victims and witnesses of crimes such as rape and modern slavery to have their cross-examination video-recorded and played later during trial.

The recording takes place as close to the time of the offence as possible, while memories remain fresh, and helps victims avoid the stress of giving evidence in a courtroom setting, which many find traumatic.

From today, the measure will be available immediately at crown courts in Bournemouth, Sheffield, Doncaster, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Southampton, Isle of Wight, Winchester, Bristol, Exeter, Gloucester, Plymouth, Salisbury and Truro.

This extension means it is now available for victims of rape at 26 crown courts, with the government committed to rolling it out nationwide by September.

Victoria Atkins MP, minister for tackling violence against women and girls, said: “This measure is a key part of our plan to overhaul the justice system’s response to rape - minimising stress for victims and helping them to provide the best possible evidence.

“Alongside this, we’re recruiting more independent sexual violence advisers, launching a new 24/7 helpline and improving collaboration between police and prosecutors to ensure victims get the support and justice they deserve.

“While there is still much more to do, convictions have increased by 15 percent over the last quarter and these measures will drive improvements further.”

The measure is also designed to maintain a defendant’s right to a fair trial and any decision to pre-record evidence is made by a judge on a case-by case basis.

Today’s update comes as the Government announces that Rape Crisis England and Wales (RCEW) will operate a new 24/7 helpline service – providing free telephone and online support to victims of rape and sexual violence at any time of the day.

The service will be launched in June and will ensure help is available to victims whenever they need it. 

Jayne Butler, CEO of Rape Crisis England & Wales, said: “This service will be a vital support provision for victims and survivors of sexual violence and abuse. We are pleased to be working with our partners at Rape Crisis South London and Welsh Women’s Aid to deliver a specialist, trauma-informed support service: one that puts survivor needs at its heart.

“The funding of this service is a welcome contribution to the Government’s commitment of increasing support for victims and survivors of rape and sexual assault.”