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Page last updated at 07:45 GMT, Saturday, 25 June 2011 08:45 UK

'Balance lost' in trial cross examinations

The chief constable of Surrey police - whose force investigated the murder of Milly Dowler - has said he is upset and embarrassed about the way her family was treated during the trial of her killer, Levi Bellfield.

Mark Rowley says they suffered an "exceptionally traumatic" experience. During questioning by the defence, Milly Dowler's home life and state of mind were questioned and her father was forced to go into details about his sex life.

Her parents, Bob and Sally Dowler, have criticised their cross examination at the Old Bailey, saying they had suffered a "mentally scarring experience on an unimaginable scale".

"The dignity and care that is lost in the treatment of victims and witnesses in sensitive cases is startling," he told Today presenter John Humphrys.

And Mr Rowley added: "In sensitive cases where the testing of evidence is difficult - and obviously it's difficult in this case - I think the balance is lost and people see sometimes the care of victims and witnesses as a nice moral add-on.

"It can't be that. They're the lifeblood of the system and unless we treat them thoughtfully and carefully fundamentally it undermines the system in the long term."

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