Amongst the key entitlements are being kept informed, including being kept informed about the stages of the process from the arrest of the suspect, to have special measures explained to them and where circumstances permit to meet the prosecutor and to ask him or her questions about the court process. There are further sections about victim personal statements, restorative justice and applying for compensation. In terms of investigation, paragraphs 1.5 and 1.6 set out in detail what the police must do when interviewing a victim and which in turn should be preceded by a “needs assessment” of what support the witness needs. All this now has the same status as the PACE codes and a court can take them into account if they are breached.

In addition, paragraph 3.3 obliges the prosecutor to seek the court’s intervention when cross-examination is considered by the prosecutor to be inappropriate or too aggressive.

The new Victims’ Code should be read in conjunction with the Criminal Practice Directions issued by the Lord Chief Justice in October (which makes even more specific rules about the allowable means of cross-examining a vulnerable witness and the need to follow the Advocate’s Gateway Toolkits), and the newly issued Equal Treatment Bench Book from the Judicial College, which goes further in recommending flexibility in the court’s approach in adapting the process in order to allow vulnerable witnesses to give their best evidence. All this dispels the misconception that arose following the Brewer trial earlier this year: it is in fact good practice that a vulnerable witness who has refused special measures is still to be treated as a vulnerable witness.