ATTORNEY-GENERAL – VICTIMS OF CRIME – 7 January 2014
Dr Julian Lewis: Can anything be done to rectify a perceived imbalance in criminal cases where the person on trial has direct access to the barrister who is representing him while the victim, as a witness, has no direct access to the prosecutor? Victims sometimes feel that their case is not as fully understood by the prosecutor as it should be. Can anything be done about that?
[The Attorney-General (Mr Dominic Grieve): There are limits to what is feasible, although it is also right to say to my hon. Friend that the previous practice, whereby the prosecuting counsel could have no contact whatever with the witness, is now at an end. There is now an opportunity for an introduction and an explanation of how the court process is likely to develop, which I think is a great improvement. That said, there should be no suggestion that a witness is being coached, which my hon. Friend will appreciate could undermine a prosecution case. Those two things have to be balanced. A point that was always made to me when I prosecuted was the absolute necessity of informing witnesses, introducing oneself to them and keeping them informed within the bounds of propriety and the court process about what is actually going on, including talking to witnesses who turn up to find that they are not needed because the defendant has pleaded guilty. It is important to explain that to them.]