HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has announced new support for the hundreds of children who visit the courts as witnesses each year.
HMCTS says it recognises that courts can be an uncomfortable environment for children and giving evidence in a courtroom can cause nervousness and stress.
This, they say, is one of the reasons introducing the ability to pre-record cross examination before the trial was so important. According to HMCTS, under this process, a child will attend a court building in advance of the main trial, and be cross examined from a video witness room located in the non-public side of the building. The judge, lawyers, defendant, and any necessary court staff remain in the courtroom, as at trial.
New animated video guides
Alongside this, HMCTS says it understands children would benefit from more visual and engaging guidance, directed at their age group, with the ability to review it at their own pace.
They have therefore created two new animated video guides and published them on the HMCTS YouTube channel. One is aimed at children aged under five years old, and the other is aimed at slightly older children from five-to-eight years old.
It’s suggested that the videos – made with input from professionals who support witnesses when giving evidence – place the child front and centre, thinking about things from their perspective and creating something that works for them.
“I’m immensely proud of the way in which criminal justice partners and support services have worked collaboratively to produce these videos. I’m confident they will improve the experience and understanding of the court for many children in the future,” said Trudy Lewis writing on the Inside HMCTS blog.