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Leicestershire Police now has a dedicated remote video link to enable children and young people, including those who have experienced sexual violence, to give evidence without having to attend court.
Based at a discreet location in Leicestershire called the Lighthouse, it will enable both victims and witnesses of crime to provide evidence without having to enter a court room or a court building and is one of a number of measures which will help reduce the anxiety, trauma and stress many people experience when going to court.
Crown Court Judge Nicholas Dean QC visited the Lighthouse today (Tuesday 18 June) and commended the force for its efforts to engage young people in an environment bespoke to their needs.
He said: “The Lighthouse is a bright and welcoming facility designed to put youngsters at their ease during what is likely to be a stressful and traumatic time for them.”
The remote video link means that youngsters can opt or apply to provide evidence to courts across the country and has already proved successful since it was introduced to Juniper Lodge, a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) for those aged 18 and over.
Judge Dean added that he would encourage the use of the Lighthouse and the SARC in all cases where a witness requires the reassurance of giving evidence in a calm environment.
The Lighthouse facility is specifically for those under 18 and has recently been refurbished to a high standard so that it provides a safe, warm, calm and relaxed environment for young people. It has bespoke interview rooms and waiting areas as well as a place for youngsters to play, furnished with soft toys.
It has also been specifically decorated using art created by young people from Beaumont Leys School.
Millie Gant manages both the Lighthouse and SARC.
She said: “The Lighthouse and the remote video link are making a hugely positive difference to young people when giving evidence to court. Having facilities like this means we can provide our full support, whether as witness or victim, in an environment that’s bespoke to them.
“Visiting court can be a daunting experience, particularly for those who are very young and don’t have a full grasp of the legal system so from beginning to end, the Lighthouse can offer wrap around support and care to those we consider most vulnerable.”
Chris Trotter, District Crown Prosecutor from the CPS Rape and serious sexual offences team, said: “Bringing the people who commit these horrific offences to justice depends on enabling victims to give the best evidence they can. We have already seen how vulnerable victims benefit from giving evidence away from the court room itself, so the focus of the Lighthouse on children and young people will provide a better environment for them when they need it most.”
Detective Chief Inspector Lucy Batchelor who oversees the SIGNAL team, who are the Force’s rape investigation team added: “This facility shows that the police and Crown Prosecution Service are working closely to ensure victims receive the highest level of care to enable them to provide the best evidence.”
The remote video link is one of a number of special measures available to vulnerable witnesses that include the option of giving their evidence from behind a screen, via video link from a different part of the court or now, via remote video link not within the court building. All applications for special measures are agreed by the court in advance.
Users of the video link will be met at the Lighthouse by a Witness Service volunteer from the Crown Court who will sit with them in the room while they give evidence. A live link into the court room will enable a barrister to cross examine the witnesses and the jurors will be able to clearly see the witness on a television screen.