As you are aware, s.28 pre-recorded cross-examination for certain eligible witnesses has now been available across England and Wales for some time. However, many practitioners will not have had the opportunity to conduct a s.28 pre-recorded cross-examination, or indeed a PTPH/Ground Rules Hearing at which the directions for s.28 pre-recorded cross-examination should be made. Practitioners may not be familiar with the range of situations in which s.28 pre-recorded cross-examination is available and appropriate; for example that it is not just restricted to sexual offence cases. It is vital that all practitioners understand the s.28 regime so that they can suggest the use of s.28 where its availability has not previously been identified, appreciate the tight timescales and requirements upon both the prosecution and the defence in s.28 cases, and follow the correct procedure.
To assist the Bar, the South-Eastern Circuit have prepared a short video, narrated by HHJ Cahill and HHJ Lodder QC, providing the legal framework and practical tips for all stages of the s.28 process – PTPH, Ground Rules Hearing, s.28 pre-recording cross-examination, review of the pre-recorded cross-examination and trial. The video is essential training for all practitioners, not just those who prosecute and defence in sexual offence cases. It is followed by a short Q&A to test understanding of the law and principles involved, and it is intended that in due course, it will become compulsory viewing, and potentially part of the essential vulnerable witness training.
The s.28 regime continues to expand and develop, and more pilot courts are being included. Remote access sites are becoming more available, so could we also ask you to remind your members that they must be alive to this, and ready to suggest to the investigating team, their instructing CPS lawyer, and the court, the option of using a remote link site for s.28 cross-examination in appropriate cases.
The training (video and Q&A combined) takes no more than an hour, and carries one CPD point, so can therefore form part of practitioners’ CPD planning for this year or next.
Practitioners are urged to complete it as soon as possible.
Please contact the SEC administrator should you have any queries.