Help for Herts crime victims and witnesses facing court delays
Delays to criminal trials caused by Covid-19 have prompted a new support system in Hertfordshire for victims and witnesses waiting to go to court.
Last year almost a quarter of all trials that failed to proceed were because of victim or witness issues. It is feared this figure could rise as the backlog means cases are taking even longer to come to court.
As a result, Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd has funded two pilot projects for a year which provide online support 24 hours a day.
They have accredited counsellors to offer advice, to whom clients will be referred by Beacon, Hertfordshire's victim care centre.
Mr Lloyd said: "This is an innovative project aiming to help victims and witnesses get through the stressful and daunting criminal process system.
"By providing access to support online, the aim is that more people than ever will be able to access the often vital help to which they are entitled.
"This will help them personally deal with and recover from the trauma and also seek to reduce the number of court cases which fail because of witnesses failing to participate.
"The Covid-19 crisis has put particular strain on the court system, so this assistance is needed now more than ever."
Kooth and Qwell are both accredited British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy services. Run by XenZone, they offer users access to a range of online support services, including peer-to-peer forums which are safe and pre-moderated and one-to-one anonymous counselling sessions.
Sessions are available from noon to 10pm weekdays and 6pm to 10pm at weekends and can be booked in advance or through a drop-in session.