Did you know that over half of child witnesses in the justice system experience symptoms of stress, such as sleep and eating problems, depression, panic attacks and self-harm, with some even suicidal? Giving evidence in court is a distressing experience for anyone. Imagine how it must feel for a child who may have been victim to a horrific form of cruelty such as sexual abuse.
A young girl recently told the NSPCC:
“I am feeling so nervous about giving evidence in court. They are making me explain exactly what happened but I’m not sure I can cope with things like that just yet. Sometimes I wish I had 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.”
Our justice system is currently unfit for children. Over 99 per cent of children still have to go to court to give their evidence, 25 years after a government report condemned this. Children have to endure searing cross-examinations from lawyers which they find upsetting and confusing. And around 96 per cent of young witnesses do not have access to a Registered Intermediary – a trained communication expert to help them understand what is happening during a trial.
That is why the NSPCC is campaigning for the following vital changes to our justice system to make it fair, age appropriate, and fit for children:
• All children should be able to give their evidence from a location away from court
• All judges and barristers taking child sexual abuse cases must complete specialist training
• All young witnesses must have access to a Registered Intermediary, who facilitates communication between children and the police and court
Read more about Order in Court here.