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Pilot to help vulnerable victims and witnesses attending court

Vulnerable victims and witnesses who need to attend court will benefit from a new service helping them understand the criminal justice system and ensure their voices are heard.

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset has received Home Office funding to set up and run a pilot for a new Complainant Liaison Officer (CLO) role.

The role will be based inside court buildings in Dorset from Wednesday 17 July to help vulnerable victims of crime and witnesses understand the trial process, in addition to services already provided by the Dorset Police Witness Care Unit and Citizens Advice Witness Service.

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “Victims of crime have already suffered, and may have experienced traumatic incidents which they are being asked to relive in the courtroom.

“Many honest law-abiding people will have only ever seen a courtroom on the TV before, and a lot of people find the whole process baffling and intimidating. This new role will provide a friendly face who is there for them and a reassuring voice who can guide them through the process, explain what’s going on and make them feel more confident before, during and after their case.”

The service cannot provide legal advice, but will be able to help by providing information to make them feel supported and reassured. This can include an explanation of potentially confusing legal terms, understanding the court process and why trials may take time to come to a conclusion.

This will help vulnerable victims and witnesses feel more supported and less afraid to attend court, more confident about giving evidence to help secure convictions, and will boost people’s satisfaction in the criminal justice system.

The post has been set up following a commitment from Martyn Underhill, and OPCC staff carried out extensive work to develop the role, working closely with partners including the Dorset Victims’ Bureau, the Crown Prosecution Service, HM Courts and Tribunals Service and the judiciary.

Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill said: “The court system is complicated, with lots of terminology that seems impenetrable, but witnesses and victims of crime shouldn’t feel like they are outsiders – they are in fact the most important people in the courtroom and this new role is there to make sure they are empowered.

“This is exactly the sort of area in which Police and Crime Commissioners can make a difference – working together with criminal justice agencies to develop new and innovative approaches to victim care. This pilot will, hopefully, prove a concept that could benefit people all across the country.”

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