A new service to support witnesses at Bradford Magistrates' Court was launched today.

A team of ten volunteers are now on hand to provide emotional and practical support to witnesses, victims and their families before, during and after hearings.

Co-ordinator Graham Woodall said everyone is a potential witness, whether for the prosecution or the defence.

"Often people dread the experience of giving evidence and feel frightened and intimidated," he said.

"Many do not want to be involved at all and fail to attend court.

"But witnesses are essential to the justice system and the more reassured and supported they are, the more likely they are to attend hearings and the greater the impact in reducing criminal activity."

Information about the service will be sent to people who are being asked to attend the court to give evidence.

The ten volunteers making up the new service range from 27 to 70 years old and have come from all walks of life.

Mr Woodall said: "We have a retired stone mason, a retired fireman, a medical secretary, a retired train driver and a school meals supervisor. They all bring something different to the team."

Over the last two months the volunteers have taken part in training, giving them an insight into the criminal justice system, court procedures, behaviour in court, equal opportunities, human awareness, communication skills and quality of service.

Chairman of Bradford Victim Support and legal team manager at Bradford Magistrates' Court, Brian Fitzpatrick, said: "It is paramount that witnesses' experience of attending court is such that when they go away they know that justice has been done and if they are a witness to a crime in the future, they will report it.

"Otherwise they will be lost to the criminal justice service forever."

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