Victims of rape and sexual offences will be spared the stress of being cross-examined in front of a jury following changes at Truro Crown Court from today.

It is part of new measures being introduced at 14 more crown courts around the country, including here in Cornwall.

The scheme allows victims and witnesses of crimes such as rape and modern slavery to have their cross-examination video-recorded and played later during trial.

The recording will take place as close to the time of the offence as possible, while memories remain fresh, and helps victims avoid the stress of giving evidence in a courtroom setting, in front of a large number of people, which many find traumatic.

The victim or witness will be in a separate room in the court and appear via video link into the main courtroom where the judge, defendant and lawyers will be, in order to maintain a defendant's right to a fair trial.

This recording will then be played to the jury during the subsequent trial, which could take place many months later.

From today, the measure will be available immediately at crown courts in Truro, Plymouth and at a total of 26 courts in the UK, with 12 already operating it successfully.

It is already being used in all crown courts in England and Wales for vulnerable victims such as children or people with limited mental capacity.

Any decision to pre-record evidence is made by a judge on a case-by case basis.

MP Victoria Atkins, minister for tackling violence against women and girls, said: “This measure is a key part of our plan to overhaul the justice system’s response to rape – minimising stress for victims and helping them to provide the best possible evidence.

“Alongside this, we’re recruiting more independent sexual violence advisors, launching a new 24/7 helpline and improving collaboration between police and prosecutors to ensure victims get the support and justice they deserve.

“While there is still much more to do, convictions have increased by 15% over the last quarter and these measures will drive improvements further.”

Today’s update comes as the Government announces that Rape Crisis England and Wales (RCEW) will operate a new 24/7 helpline service, providing free telephone and online support to victims of rape and sexual violence at any time of the day. The service will be launched in June and will ensure help is available to victims whenever they need it.