Witnesses of crimes are considerably less likely to have faith in the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, or the courts, than other members of the public according to a recent study. Witness groups have said that the figures prove that more needs to be done in order to protect the interests of those that have witnessed a crime, and that more effort will be needed to help ensure that witnesses are willing to come forward rather than to feel that there is no point in doing so.
The Police often rely on witnesses to come forward in order to report a crime, especially in those cases where there was no victim directly involved or where the victim is unable to come forward. Witnesses can also prove key to helping ensure that a person is arrested and charged with a crime they have committed, and this means that it is essential that the police and the CPS do not discourage people from coming forward in this way.
The Witnessing Crime report analysed official figures from the 2013/2014 Crime Survey for England and Wales. This included interviews with approximately 35,000 witnesses to various crimes, and the Ministry of Justice used the figures in order to determine how witnesses felt after the event and during the process.
Just 42% of respondents said that they were very or fairly confident that the justice system was effective, which does not compare favourably to the 51% of people that had not witnessed any crimes. Just 71% of witnesses said that they believed people were treated as innocent until proven guilty, compared to 78% of people that had not witnessed a crime. Witnesses were also a lot less likely to be confident that the police would catch criminals than non-witnesses were.
The greatest concern for the police and the justice system is that this lack of trust means that witnesses to crimes are less likely to come forward and report what they have seen to the police. With such importance being placed on witness statements and testimonies, witnesses should be confident that they can come forward without being treated like a suspect themselves.