TV links to relieve trauma of testifying
PLANS to let frightened or vulnerable witnesses be interviewed via courtroom television links moved a step closer yesterday when the new rules were gazetted.
The proposals introduce four new ways to let witnesses give evidence free from intimidation and to allay the trauma and anxiety of testifying.
Children and the mentally handicapped have been targeted to benefit from the new measures, which have been included under the amended Criminal Procedure Ordinance passed by legislators in July. Child witnesses in particular will be spared the trauma of being close to alleged abusers, according to a Legal Department spokesman.
The measures allow witnesses to give their accounts on camera in specially adapted rooms. Pictures of them will be beamed on screens set up in courtrooms.
The regulations also allow videotaped statements to be admitted as evidence.
This means those who feel especially vulnerable will be spared the trauma of gruelling court appearances.
The regulations have also simplified the procedures for giving evidence. Scared witnesses will no longer have to appear in court twice - once at the committal stage and again at the trial.
'Committal proceedings will not be needed when the Director of Public Prosecution issues a notice of transfer certifying that the evidence is sufficient for the accused to be committed for trial,' the spokesman said.
Written depositions taken by a magistrate will also allowed where exposure to a full trial would endanger the physical or mental health of the child or mentally handicapped witness.