NSPCC calls for change in Avon and Somerset police force
PUBLISHED: 10:00 04 October 2016 | UPDATED: 11:11 04 October 2016
The NSPCC has called for court reforms in the Avon and Somerset policing area after it was revealed the force does not have remote video links for children giving evidence in abuse cases.
The Government has committed to ensure every court region provides remote video links, which means child victims do not have to enter the court building and risk bumping into their abuser.
However, Avon and Somerset is one of 12 forces in the country which does not currently make this service available.
Sharon Copsey, NSPCC regional head of service in South West England, said: “Children have to be tremendously brave to be a witness against someone who has abused them – something that would be daunting even for an adult. So we must make sure they have as much support as possible when giving evidence, an essential part of this is allowing them to do so where and when they are likely to feel comfortable and confident. For many children the courts can be inappropriate and intimidating places.
“We have heard troubling stories about children encountering defendants and their supporters which in some cases frightens them so much they feel they can’t go through with giving evidence.”
The NSPCC campaign ‘Order in Court’ has been putting pressure on government to ensure that the justice system is more child-friendly when it comes to giving evidence against offenders.
Avon and Somerset superintendent Andy Bennett, head of criminal justice, said: “This is an important development for us as part of process of safeguarding vulnerable people.
“There was a delay in launching the Live Links project for a number of reasons including opening new custom-built police centres and change in the way we respond to the public.
“We are about to launch our pilot site, with Bridgwater Police Centre linking directly to Taunton Crown Court CC. There has been some technological issues which we are currently working through with our phone provider. Once this has been overcome and is underway, we have a roll-out plan, which will include provision of a vulnerable person suite.
Avon and Somerset police and crime commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, said: “Protecting and supporting young victims of crime is vital in ensuring we improve outcomes for vulnerable children and help them to cope and recover from their experience.
“In Avon and Somerset I continue to work with the police to identify ways we can better support children who are required to give evidence. One of these ways is through our new soft-suite facilities, a child friendly environment where children can share their experiences free from intimidation and interrogation.
“Partnership working is fundamental when protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities. I am committed to working with partners, such as the NSPCC, to ensure that we are doing all that we can to support young victims of crime.”