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If the Vicitim is Young

The Victim’s Charter states that if children are witnesses in cases involving sex, violence or cruelty, the police will give them and their parents or carers an information pack called the Young Witness Pack. You can buy further copies from the NSPCC. The trial will be arranged for the earliest possible date. Many Crown Court centres have special facilities so that, where appropriate, children can give their evidence from a private room over a TV link with the courtroom. When a case is sent for trial from a magistrates' court the Crown Prosecution Service can ask for it to be sent to a Crown Court with this equipment. If you want your child to use one of these facilities you should discuss this with the police as soon as possible and always well before the court hearing.

Crown Court centres have a Child Witness Officer to answer questions about the facilities at the court and court procedures. They will liaise with the judge and the court staff to make sure that the case comes to court as soon as possible. If a TV link is to be used, the Child Witness Officer will explain how the equipment works. When the child arrives at court to give evidence, the officer will take the child to a private waiting area away from the defendants.

Under section 21 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 witnesses who are under 17 in cases involving sex or violence are automatically allowed to make their statement through a video recording which will then be used as their evidence in chief at court and be cross-examined via a live TV link in another room at the court. Witnesses under 17 in other cases are eligible to apply for special measures such as these, or the use of screens in the court room.

A child under 14 who is the victim of a violent offence, and a child under 17 who is the victim of a sexual offence cannot be cross-examined by the defendant in person because of section 35 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. In addition new special measures, such as the use of screens in court are becoming available to witnesses under 17.

The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 provides the power to clear the court while a child or young person is giving evidence in cases where the offence is against the ‘decency or morality’ of the child.

The child’s parent or carer can, if they wish, make a Victim Personal Statement on the child’s behalf.

The Witness Service
The Witness Service run by Victim Support can offer a pre-trial visit to the court to show the child or young person the court and TV link room. Most Witness Services are able to make a room available where children can wait and they can all provide support to parents and carers. In addition they can generally also arrange for the most appropriate methods of access to and from the court building and ensure that their other requirements in court are provided for.

Pre-trial Therapy
A joint publication in 2001 by the Home Office, Crown Prosecution Service and Department of Health entitled Provision of Therapy for Child Witnesses prior to a Criminal Trial (2001) gives guidance in relation to therapy for children before a trial. It states that the best interests of the child should be paramount even if the provision of therapy might prejudice the criminal trial and cause it to be abandoned. However confidentiality cannot be guaranteed.

Media in relation to cases involving children

The Press Complaints Commission’s Code of Practice states that the press must not identify children under the age of 16 who are involved in cases concerning sexual offences, whether as victims or as witnesses, nor allow them to be identified by stating that a child is related to a named offender.

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