My name is Hannah and I have worked for IDAS for 4 and a half years. I have completed my professional qualification as an ISVA and have worked with so many clients within my role.
My job role often involves accompanying a client to court. More often than not, the client has been waiting 2 to 5 years for the crime they were a victim of, to get to the point of court. Recently I attended my first trial where section 28 was utilised.
Section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 enables the recording of evidence and cross-examination prior to trial, subject to judicial discretion.
It applies to vulnerable complainants of a crime (commonly referred to as victims) and witnesses, regardless of offence, and includes:
- all child witnesses
- any witness whose quality of evidence is likely to be diminished because they:
a. are suffering from a mental disorder
b. have a significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning
c. have a physical disability or are suffering from a physical disorder.
It is a fairly new intervention within the criminal justice system protecting vulnerable persons and has only come in to play in 2018 and even more recently in Yorkshire. It was within the last few months that I supported at the first section 28 with a young person. I arrived at 9.15 am and expected the long wait that is often the case with trials especially on a Monday am when the court has multiple hearings or sentencings. I was surprised we went in as soon as we got there and straight into the video link room. With a section 28 the young/vulnerable person can choose a support worker to go in with them as long as they have very little or no knowledge of the details of the events the young/vulnerable person will speak about.
I was privileged to have been chosen in place of an intermediary which is also offered.
The Barrister offered to not wear gowns or wigs and promised questions would be simple and not convoluted. These questions lasted a short while and the Judge and Barristers made their language accessible and non- aggressive.
All in all, I was impressed with the service my client got and how the morning unfolded. That experience was definitely more appropriate for young people and anyone with communication challenges.