'Rape victims' will be spared the ordeal of giving evidence in court from September, the government has announced.

Cross-examination will be pre-recorded and then played to the jury during trials, justice secretary Liz Truss said.

The scheme was not intended to be rolled out until next year, but has now been bought forward to this autumn, it was announced today.

The move follows a successful pilot pre-recording the evidence of child victims of sex offences which showed they felt less pressure and were better able to recall events, the Ministry of Justice said.

Some victims of sexual crimes already choose to give evidence from behind a curtain to increase their comfort during trials.

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"Attitudes to sex crimes and victims have changed beyond all recognition in our lifetime, and rape prosecutions are now at record levels," Ms Truss (pictured above) said.

"With more victims now finding the confidence to come forward, I am determined to make their path to justice swifter and less traumatic.

"This will not reduce the right to a fair trial, but will make sure victims of these abhorrent crimes are protected and able provide their best possible evidence."

Ms Truss also announced a crackdown on paedophiles who use social media to ‘groom’ child victims online.

A new offence of ‘sexual communication with a child’ - which comes into force next month - will carry a maximum two-year prison sentence, with those convicted automatically being placed on the sex offenders register.

"In a world of mobile phones and social media, our children are ever more vulnerable to those who prey on their innocence and exploit their trust," Ms Truss said.

"This new offence will help to us tackle the early stages of grooming, and nip in the bud those targeting children online or through text messages."

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