05/09/2003

Minister pledges £1.5m for court support schemes

NIO Minister Jane Kennedy has pledged £1.5 million in funding for support services for victims and prosecution witnesses attending Crown Court.

The funding, which will come over the next three years, will enable the delivery of the NSPCC Young Witness Scheme and Victim Support's Adult Court Witness Service.

Speaking on the launch of the two services Ms Kennedy said the funding was “a clear signal that the Government is committed to ensuring that victims and witnesses are placed at the heart of the process".

Commenting on the NIO’s partnership with the voluntary sector Ms Kennedy stated that the relationship would “ensure the highest quality of witness support services are provided to children, young people and adults in Northern Ireland courts” and added that “both services aim to reduce the stress of children, young people and adults going to court and prevent the experience of court from compounding any existing trauma that they might have.”

The NSPCC service, which will provide a number of services to all child victims and prosecution witnesses (up to 18 years of age), will be running in all Crown Court venues across Northern Ireland by the end of this month and will be supported by qualified social workers in the role of Young Witness Workers.

The development of support services was a key recommendation of the Criminal Justice Review which reported in 2000.

(MB)

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