NSPCC's child support warning

Children giving evidence in court in sexual abuse cases need to be given more support, with many suffering from stress ahead of a trial, the NSPCC has said.

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Justice minister: 'More needs done' for child witnesses

Justice Minister Damian Green admitted more work was needed to help children be supported through the court process. Responding to the NSPCC report that highlighted failures in adequate care of young and vulnerable witnesses at criminal proceedings, he said:

There are a range of measures available to help reduce the anxiety of attending court, including giving evidence behind a screen or the use of a registered intermediary, which has increased significantly over recent years. We are also trialling pre-recorded evidence for young and vulnerable witnesses.

We recognise that more work needs to be done.

I have ordered an investigation into how we might reduce the distress caused to victims from cross examination from multiple defence barristers without compromising the fundamental right to a fair trial.

Young witnesses can be questioned in 'aggressive way'

A senior policy analyst for the NSPCC says young witnesses can be questioned by barristers in an "aggressive way" when giving evidence in court in sexual abuse cases.

Lisa McCrindle told the BBC:

The courts are concentrating on the point of law, which is correct, but it means there is often little or no communication between the courts and the child.

– Lisa McCrindle, senior policy analyst for the NSPCC

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Report shows shortfall in guidance given to children

Here is a breakdown of the key points of the NSPCC's findings:

  • Currently just two per cent of child witnesses in criminal court cases receive guidance on criminal proceedings from registered advisers, the NSPCC findings reported, and yet at least half said they were unable to understand some of the questions they had been asked.
  • The research showed that more than 50 per cent of child witnesses reported symptoms of stress ahead of a trial, including panic attacks, self-harm and difficulty sleeping.

NSPCC: Children need more support when in court

Fewer than a quarter of the 23,000 child sex offences recorded in England and Wales last year resulted in prosecution. Credit: ITV News

Children giving evidence in court in sexual abuse cases need to be given more support, with many suffering from stress ahead of a trial, the NSPCC has said.

The children's charity warned some cases are collapsing because not enough is done to help vulnerable witnesses, it has been reported.

Fewer than a quarter of the 23,000 child sex offences recorded in England and Wales last year resulted in prosecution, according to the NSPCC.

Chief executive Peter Wanless told the BBC news website: "These children have to publicly relive the most traumatic, upsetting and humiliating experience of their lives in order to try and get justice."

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