Dear Crown Prosecution Service,
I would like to know what reasons and justifications are provided for an adult complainant to complete an Achievement of Best Evidence (ABE) interview when the adult is not a vulnerable or intimidated witness.
Is there a list of criteria that an adult complainant has to fulfil so that the an ABE interview takes place e.g. vulnerable witness, intimidated witness, suffering a learning or cognitive disorder, English is not first language, other?
Or, are the police entitled to conduct an ABE interview with an adult complainant that doesn't fulfil any criteria but will provide information for the police when not being questioned during a routine, or 'normal', interview that includes open-ended questions?
I have directed this question to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) rather than a particular police force as I feel the CPS provides the guidance to police on the appropriate use of ABE interviews that enable complainants to provide statements without being cross-examined or challenged which may occur during a routine or 'normal' interview with a police officer.
Dear Sir or Madam,
Freedom of Information Act 2000 Request – Ref: - 7705
Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FOI) request which we received
on 11 April 2018.
The FOI Act is a public disclosure regime, not a private regime. This
means that any information disclosed under the FOI Act by definition
becomes available to the wider public.
There is a 20 working day limit in which we are required to respond to
The deadline for your request is 10 May 2018.
Information Management Unit
020 3357 0899
[CPS request email]
Dear LJ Brogan,
Thank you for your email of 11 April.
First, it may be useful if I set out that an ABE (Achieving Best Evidence)
interview is a special measure - section 27 of the Youth Justice and
Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (YJCEA 99).
The YJCEA 99 legislation stipulates that only vulnerable (section 16)
and intimidated (section 17) victims and witnesses are eligible for
The CPS has legal guidance on special measures and eligibility, which can
be found here.
The relevant sections to your query are:
What are special measures?
The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (YJCEA) introduced a
range of measures that can be used to facilitate the gathering and giving
of evidence by vulnerable and intimidated witnesses. The measures are
collectively known as "special measures".
Special measures are a series of provisions that help vulnerable and
intimidated witnesses give their best evidence in court and help to
relieve some of the stress associated with giving evidence. Special
measures apply to prosecution and defence witnesses, but not to the
defendant and are subject to the discretion of the court.
Paragraph 2.21, Part B, of the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime
(the Victims' Code) requires prosecutors to give early consideration to
making a Special Measures application to the court, taking into account
any views expressed by the victim. (See the Code of Practice for
Victims of Crime: CPS Legal Guidance.)
Eligibility for special measures
A vulnerable or intimidated witness will be eligible for special measures
under sections 16 to 33 of the YJCEA.
In relation to whether the police ever interview a witness who does not
meet the criteria, this should not happen because the special measure can
only be accessed if a witness is vulnerable (eligible on the ground of age
– under 18 – or incapacity) or intimidated (eligible on grounds of fear or
distress about testifying). As the CPS policy lead on special measures, I
am not aware of this ever happening either but you can contact the police
if you wish to pursue that query further.
I can clarify that the CPS does not provide guidance to the police on ABE
interviews, the role of the CPS is to provide feedback on the quality of
the interview particularly if there are poor video or audio issues. The
ABE guidance published in March 2011 is owned by MoJ and I have attached a
copy for your information but would highlight this is currently being
updated by MoJ with input from police, National Crime Agency, CPS,
Department of Education and other agencies. At present MoJ do not have a
publication for the refreshed guidance planned.
It may also be useful for me to explain a common misconception in that the
CPS does not supervise the police, nor does the CPS have any power to
direction the police in their investigations and the CPS has no powers of
investigation itself. The CPS is public prosecution service that
prosecutes criminal cases that have been investigated by the police and
other investigative organisations in England and Wales. The CPS is
independent, and we make our decisions independently of the police and
government. More information can be found here.
I hope this is helpful and answers your query, please do let me know if
there is anything else I can assist on.
Samantha Magness | Senior Policy Advisor | Prosecution Policy and
Inclusion Unit | Operations Directorate |CPS HQ | Rose Court | 2 Southwark
Bridge | London | SE1 9HS | w: www.cps.gov.uk
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