The Welsh Government has invested over £400,000 in 13 new facilities across Wales to ensure that victims feel safe, secure and supported to give evidence in cases involving domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt, said: “Sexual violence and abuse effects every community in Wales. We can only really begin to tackle this problem if we ensure that the victims of these crimes feel safe enough to come forward and give the evidence that will enable justice to be served, and those responsible held to account.
“These new facilities are a first of their kind for the UK. I am proud that we are leading the way here in Wales, continuing our commitment to support victims and survivors whenever, wherever and however they need it.
"The new facilities will give vulnerable and intimidated witnesses the ability to make their voice heard in a way which reduces the fear, stress and anxiety commonly associated with giving evidence in open court.”
Chief Crown Prosecutor for Wales, Jenny Hopkins said: “We know that having to give intimate and upsetting details in person to a busy court room, often in front of the defendant, is a huge barrier to victims reporting a crime. This project has been driven by the first-hand experience of victims and the issues they have told us they have faced when giving evidence about their abuse.
“These facilities will hopefully remove some of the fear and anxiety associated with giving evidence, ensuring that victims of abuse in Wales can give their evidence in a safe supportive environment.”
A victim suffered physical abuse for more than 20 years at the hands of her partner and was one of the first people to use the new service. She said: “I was terrified at the thought of facing my abuser in court and although I wanted justice, I don’t think I could have gone through with it in person.
“Being able to give my evidence in a safe location, far from the court room and supported by an independent domestic abuse advisor, gave me the confidence I needed to give my evidence and get justice for the many years of harm I have endured.”
These new sites are part of a bigger picture to work together across agencies through the Criminal Justice Board for Wales, will the overall ambition to reduce crime and improve support for victims.
The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, said: “For many victims, the idea of going to court and coming face-to-face with their abusers can be very distressing and can put them off ever coming forward, instead leaving them to suffer in silence.
"Ensuring that all victims in Wales now have access to video-link facilities is a great pioneering move that will help improve the victim’s experience of the criminal justice system and encourage more victims to come forward. While similar facilities exist in England, they tend to be under-used, so I hope this investment by the Welsh government will encourage this agenda across the board.”