Remote Evidence Centres

These remote facilities enable all vulnerable and/or intimidated witnesses who are eligible for special measures to give evidence via live link away from the courthouse, so removing the possibility of meeting the defendant while at court.  

The commentary from witnesses to date shows that the use of the Remote Evidence Centres has improved the experience of giving evidence, has reduced their anxiety and improved the quality of the evidence given. 

There are currently two Remote Evidence Centres operational in Northern Ireland; one for witnesses giving evidence to Laganside Court (the new facility opened in September 2023) and the other for those asked to give evidence from Craigavon.  Any witness who is eligible for special measures may give evidence remotely from either of these centres. 

The Belfast Remote Evidence Centre has separate adult and children’s facilities including conference, waiting and live link rooms, which utilise new technology to connect to the courtroom and consultation booths. 

As part of the Gillen Review it was recommended that Remote Evidence Centres be made available to prosecution witnesses in cases involving serious sexual offences. (Recommendation 9). 

Any witness giving evidence from the Centres will receive support from either Victim Support NI or NSPCC’s Young Witness Service. 

A familiarisation visit will be arranged by the witness support services so that victims and witnesses can decide where they feel most comfortable and able to give their best evidence to the court. Consultations with the prosecution team can take place in person or virtually, via Webex.  Witnesses can also view the hearing from the Remote Evidence Centre after giving their evidence.   

Opening The Belfast Remote Evidence Centre, Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan said:

“Initial feedback from witnesses is very positive with some indicating that without the availability of the REC they would not have given evidence and would have dropped out of the criminal justice process. While at an early stage, there is also some evidence to suggest that the availability of the REC and associated lower dropout rates could contribute to a higher number of early guilty pleas.”

Attending the opening of the Belfast Remote Evidence Centre, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron commented:

“We understand that for most victims the very prospect of entering a courtroom to give evidence against the perpetrator of offences against them can be deeply traumatic. Reducing a witness’s concerns about attending court or coming face to face with the offender and their supporters can reduce further traumatisation and make what is an already uncomfortable process somewhat easier.

“This first-class centre provides a comfortable, safe space for those giving evidence who may not be able to give their best quality evidence, or any evidence at all, if required to attend a traditional court building.  We hope it will also improve their experience of the criminal justice system more generally.”

Belfast Remote Evidence Centre

Tour video for children and young people