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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 October 2005, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
Videoed evidence 'dilutes impact'
Jury members
Video evidence lacks impact for the jury, the judge said
Videoed evidence from sex crime victims often left jurors "thinking they were watching another episode of Coronation Street", a judge has said.

Judge James Tabor QC told a law conference that the impact of the evidence was diluted by not having the victim in court.

He said video evidence was used too readily in sex cases.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it was examining ways to tackle prejudices that jurors have about sex crimes.

If you lose the immediacy and engagement with the witness you are playing into the defence's hands
Judge James Tabor QC

Evidence given in person in a court produced a far greater impact than video evidence, Judge Tabor said.

"There's nothing more effective than for a victim to say to a jury, 'Look at me, this is what happened'."

When watching television screens, "juries are left thinking they are watching another episode of Coronation Street, " he added.

"If you lose the immediacy and engagement with the witness you are playing into the defence's hands."

Juror prejudices

Judge Tabor, resident judge at Gloucester Crown Court, said the problem applied to both adult victims and to child sex victims.

Also appearing at the Bar conference, the Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald QC said the Crown Prosecution Service was examining the ways other countries use experts to "challenge the myths" about sexual offence victims.

"We are conducting a piece of legal research to find a means by which we could introduce that material into English criminal courts," said Mr Macdonald.

Improve understanding

He said expert evidence could put behaviour into context in some cases.

For example, people outside the legal profession often found it hard to believe that a rape victim would not have suffered physical injury, or understand why a battered wife would return to her partner.

In the US and other countries experts can give evidence about why victims may behave in a certain way, he said.

He said such evidence may help juries understand the case and may help them believe a victim's testimony.


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