Rob Ewin


Special Measures (SM) were introduced under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act (YJCEA, 1999), forming part of measures used to assist Vulnerable and Intimidated Witnesses (VIW). Speaking up for Justice (Home Office, 1999) recognised that being a witness in a Criminal proceedings can be a stressful affair; Leveson (2015) highlighted the need for consistent judicial case management where SM are concerned. In the current study of 70 practitioners, it was found that the YJCEA provides sufficient legal gateway for VIW’s. However, there remains an area for development in the early identification of VIW’s, and there is an inefficient infrastructure around case-file management. This results in some SM being denied, applied incorrectly, or forgotten altogether. The majority of practitioners feel there is inadequate training around VIW’s, and a lack of adequately trained specialist investigators for video interview procedures. Witness assessment is shown to be sporadic with some Constabularies excelling where others do not. Funding in this area does not appear to be a hurdle in the application of SM; many practitioners agreed that there is a problem with identification between the two ‘gateways’ (s.16 and s.17) under the 1999 act, and witnesses ‘needs’ are often assumed and not assessed. There appears to be no standardised assessment for witnesses despite the requirement that a ‘needs assessment’ be conducted under the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (Ministry of Justice, 2015). Although ‘Identifying vulnerability in witnesses and defendants’ (Cooper et al., 2014) does contain a toolkit for collectively assessing vulnerability making reference to a number of key areas of research and law (Bradley, 2010; Bull, 2010; Young, 2013; Gregory & Bryan, 2011; Gudjonsson, 2010; Criminal Practice Directions, 2013) this kind of assessment does not appear to be reflected in practice although practitioners do purport that SM has a positive impact on witnesses.