Who would have thought a CPS consultation on procedure would become a news story? On 19th January 2015, news outlets were awash with reports of the latest CPS consultation. This time it is do with what should advocates say to complainants (or, as the CPS have it, ‘victims’) at Court.
There is new guidance which aim to “ensure victims are, for example, informed of the general nature of the defence case or if their own character is to be questioned in the witness box. In a rape case a complainant may be told if the likely defence was to be, for example, on the issue of consent or identity. The guidance makes clear that assisting witnesses in this way is not coaching or telling them what to say“,
Summary of Guidance
The actual draft guidance is very short – only 7 pages, and is worth reading. Most of it is common sense and common decency, but parts are much more controversial.
Basically, the advocate is instructed to speak to the witness and provide assistance about, amongst other things, ‘Procedure’, ‘Giving Evidence’ and ‘Cross-Examination’. What was trailed was that complainants would be told what the defence was so that they would be forewarned.
There is a fine line between this and coaching witnesses (see the guidance in Momodou  EWCA Crim 177) and it is likely that this aspect will be where the focus of most of the response will be.
How to respond?
There is a response form that you can download and fill in.
This is a controversial issue (although less controversial when you read the actual guidance). Make sure you have your say.