Charity welcomes proposals to ensure the rights of child witnesses are protected-but says even more can be done
Children 1st has welcomed proposals published today by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service to ensure child witnesses are treated fairly in the justice system. Included in its Evidence and Procedure Review-Next Steps report is a recommendation that child witnesses give pre-recorded evidence rather than attending court.
Children 1st's Assistant Director of Children's Services Anna O’Reilly said:
“We know that Scotland is far behind other countries, such as Norway, England and Wales, in providing a justice system which meets the needs of child witnesses and the report today is a positive step forward to transforming the experience of child witnesses here in Scotland.
“We are pleased the report highlights the need for new approaches to questioning of child witnesses including the use of intermediaries, which make sure children can understand questions put to them. Intermediaries are already in place in England and Wales and Children 1st has long been calling for their introduction in Scotland.
“We know through working with child victims and witnesses that the Scottish Justice system can often cause further trauma, distress and harm. Many children have told us if they had known what it was like they would never have agreed to give evidence. It is also crucial that these children have automatic access to abuse and trauma recovery support. We are hugely encouraged by the report published today as an important step forward. and look forward to working with the Scottish Court and Tribunal Service to make these recommendations a reality. it is important to note that these recommendations represent the first step on a longer journey and Children 1st encourages the justice system to be even more ambitious as the review progresses.”
For more than a decade Children 1st has led the Justice for Children child witness reform alliance which works with professionals and academics to ensure that children’s wellbeing is protected and they are able to give their best evidence in court.