NSPCC Youth Witness Service Remote Live Link Key stakeholder evaluation of service for young people giving evidence in court
This report outlines the findings from an evaluation of the NSPCC’s Young Witness Service (YWS) remote live link. Piloted since January 2008, the YWS enables young witnesses to give evidence at Londonderry (Bishop Street) Courthouse from the NSPCC’s building in Foyle, via a TV live link.
The NSPCC commissioned National Children's Bureau Northern Ireland (NCB NI) to evaluate the service.
Authors: Helen McNamee, Frances Molyneaux and Teresa Geraghty
Interviews and a focus group were conducted in May 2011 with 14 key stakeholders. The report found:
- by providing them with a safe, secure environment with people to support them, young witnesses were able to give their best evidence through the remote live link
- although it was generally felt that the remote live link did not have any impact on the outcomes of trials, it did increase the likelihood that a trial would take place
- there were a few potential barriers to the effectiveness of the remote live link including: the need for all those involved in court proceedings to be organised, and the legal process that needs to be undertaken for special measures to go ahead
- NSPCC premises were perceived as welcoming, safe, secure and ideally located; the staff and volunteers were found to be proficient; and the technical equipment used was deemed fit for purpose
- advantages of the remote live link included: more cases going to court, young witnesses being able to give their best evidence, less fear and stress in young witnesses, and more quality time with the prosecutor
- disadvantages included: the evidence seemed to be less persuasive than in open court, consultation of young witnesses was marginally slower, and judges having less control
- all participants were fully in favour of the expansion of the service to all courts throughout Northern Ireland.
- the pilot scheme should be made a permanent facility available to all young witnesses who are involved in criminal cases held in the jurisdiction
- the use of remote live link should be extended to all courts throughout Northern Ireland and the facilities in use by NSPCC YWS in Foyle should be used as a model of good practice
- the Department of Justice should agree to underwrite the funding for the extension of the remote live link service to Londonderry Courthouse and the expansion of the remote live link facility throughout Northern Ireland
- NSPCC should explore the possibility of utilising their facilities in Foyle so they can be employed by young witnesses appearing in other courts in Northern Ireland and also explore the possibility of a central remote live link office.
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