Child witnesses need more support

We're calling for more children to give evidence by remote video link 

Girl by wallVictims of child abuse face a postcode lottery when getting help to give evidence against offenders, according to figures we’ve obtained as the long-awaited trial on Radio 4’s The Archers gets underway.  

Our Freedom of Information (FOI) request to police forces across England and Wales shows that just over a third (12) of those that responded don’t have ‘remote video links’. This could potentially force children to undergo the ordeal of bumping into their abuser at court.


Lack of support from the justice system

The new figures reveal the stark reality of the justice system for children. They show that while many areas don’t have remote video link facilities located away from court buildings, the few that do have rarely used them. 

The postcode lottery across England and Wales is highlighted by the 34 police forces that responded to the FOI. Of these forces:

    • 20 said they have remote video links sites that have been used, but not all gave any further detail
    • 2 were in the process of setting up remote video link sites
    • in 1 area, 21 child witnesses had used remote video links to give evidence over the last 2 years. In another area, they'd only been used once.

"I'm feeling so nervous about giving evidence in court. They're making me explain exactly what happened but I’m not sure I can cope with things like that just yet. Sometimes I wish I'd never said anything. It was horrible before but if I knew all this was going to happen then maybe I wouldn’t have said anything."
Young girl contacting us

Protecting children in court

The Archers storyline features 5-year-old Henry's pre-recorded police interview being used in the trial involving his mum, Helen.

In real-life many children still have to go to court buildings to give video evidence despite a government commitment to victims to ensure that every court region provides a remote video link facility.

Our Order in Court campaign has been putting pressure on government to ensure that the justice system is more child-friendly when it comes to giving evidence against offenders.

Order in Court

We're campaigning for vital changes to make our justice system fair, age appropriate, and fit for children.
Read Order in Court campaign updates

Peter Wanless

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said:
"Children have to be tremendously brave to be a witness against someone who has abused them – something that would be daunting even for an adult.

"We must make sure they have as much support as possible when giving evidence. An essential part of this is allowing them to do so where and when they are likely to feel comfortable and confident.

"Some courts and police forces are making a big effort to ease the burden for child witnesses but these figures show there is still some way to go and that not every child is as well supported as Henry when it comes to giving evidence."

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Supporting young witnesses to give evidence in court in Northern Ireland.
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It's Time to demand change

Up to 90% of children who've been abused will develop mental health issues by the time they're 18.

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The signs of child abuse aren't always obvious, and a child might not tell anyone what's happening to them. Sometimes children don't understand that what's happening is abuse. 
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References

  1. We sent the 43 police forces across England and Wales an FOI in August 2016 as follows:

      • how many remote video link sites are there in your area that are suitable for child/ vulnerable witnesses to use and are not located in a court building?
      • how many times in the last year (April 2015 – March 2016) and the year before (April 2014 – March 2015) have these sites been used by child witnesses?

    34 out of 43 police forces responded.