Vulnerable Witnesses – awareness for practitioners
Effective communication and partnership working between the Police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), intermediary services, social care services and the wider Voluntary Sector is crucial in creating the best possible outcomes for adults who become involved, as witnesses, in the criminal justice system.
The key issue for agencies to consider when they are working with an adult with care and support needs (vulnerable person) is the possibility and likelihood that this person may have an active social worker, who they should seek to make contact with, in relation to the support they may need progressing through the criminal justice process.
Likewise, social workers who already know that a service user is involved in the criminal justice process should pro-actively be considering the available options in relation to the victim support network; and in conjunction with this, understand the role they can play if they are contacted by other professionals (Police, CPS or registered intermediary).
There is an extensive range of organisations available to help an individual progressing through the criminal justice system; however this victim support network is not always connected or understood by practitioners.
The following links provide further insight:
- Greater Manchester Victim Services
- Ministry of Justice Step by Step Guide to being a Witness (You Tube)
- HM Courts & Tribunal Service Vulnerable & Intimidated Witnesses Service
- Victims Information Service
- Citizen’s Advice Bureau Witness Support
- Registered Intermediaries
- St. Mary’s Centre – Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)
- Independent Domestic Violence Advise (IDVA) Service in Manchester
- NHS England Liaison & Diversion Service
- Crown Prosecution Service support for victims and witnesses
The CPS advises:
‘The case notes and reports of practitioners can be drawn into the criminal justice arena, which magnifies the need for accuracy, factual and up to date recording; and eliminating the use of un-qualified ‘opinions’.
When an adult (vulnerable person) goes through the criminal justice process and they are receiving support at the time or shortly after the offence, the notes are third party material and can be summonsed to court or dealt with under the third party protocol. The notes can then be put to the witness after they give their evidence if there is a relevant point.’