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Measuring up?

Evaluating implementation of Government commitments to young witnesses in criminal proceedings

By Joyce Plotnikoff and Richard Woolfson (July 2009)

A study by the NSPCC in partnership with the Nuffield Foundation

This research follows on from the 2004 report by the same authors on the experiences of 50 young witnesses, which demonstrated that at that time, reforms were urgently needed to improve the way young people are treated when giving evidence in court. More about the research.


Executive summary
Measuring up? Evaluating implementation of Government commitments to young witnesses in criminal proceedings (executive summary) (PDF, 299KB)

Full report
Measuring up? Evaluating implementation of Government commitments to young witnesses in criminal proceedings (PDF, 1.18MB)

Practice guidance
Good practice guidance in managing young witness cases and questioning children (PDF, 160KB)
Messages emerging from the research. Good practice guidance for law practitioners and others who work with young witnesses both before and during trial.

Progress report
Young witnesses in criminal proceedings: A progress report on Measuring up? (2009)
Plotnikoff and Woolfson (June 2011)
This briefing paper revisits the recommendations and identifies progress made. It also highlights where further action is needed. It is based on discussions at two seminars held in June and September 2010 and a review of current criminal justice business plans and ‘Big Society’ policy pronouncements.

About the research

In their own words (NSPCC, 2004) concluded that “Despite a network of policies and procedures intended to facilitate children’s evidence, only a handful of young witnesses… gave evidence in anything approaching the optimum circumstances. Their experiences revealed a chasm - an implementation gap - between policy objectives and actual delivery around the country.”

Since 2004, a wide range of government commitments has been issued or updated, aiming to better support young witnesses and enabling them to give their best evidence. This much improved legislative framework should lessen the ordeal that giving evidence inevitably is for any person, particularly children.

Measuring up? considers whether the “implementation gap” between policy and practice has narrowed. It is based on a much larger sample of 182 young witnesses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, aged between five and 19, who were interviewed, along with most of their parents, between May 2007 and October 2008.

Information was also gathered from the managers of 52 Witness Services, seven young witness support schemes, and from each organisation that referred a young witness to the research project.

The study compares recent government policies and guidance with children’s experiences before, during and after trial to evaluate:

  • how well criminal justice organisations identify young witness needs

  • whether support for young witnesses is made available consistently and appropriately

  • the treatment of young witnesses by the criminal justice system

  • the experiences of young witnesses in the context of the desired Every Child Matters outcomes of “being healthy” and “staying safe” (in terms of the risk of secondary abuse from the court process) and “making a positive contribution” (in terms of the requirement to perform a public service).

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Related links

In their own words: the experiences of 50 young witnesses in criminal proceedings
Joyce Plotnikoff and Richard Woolfson (NSPCC, 2004).

Your shout too!: a survey of the views of children and young people involved in court proceedings when their parents divorce or separate
Judith E. Timms, Sue Bailey and June Thoburn (NSPCC, 2007).

Your shout! a survey of the views of 706 children and young people in public care (PDF, 308KB)  
Judith E. Timms and June Thoburn (NSPCC, 2003).

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