New witness centre will support children

Web court room hammer

Charities have welcomed the initiative, which will support vulnerable witnesses who are needed to give evidence

31st October 2018 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Vulnerable witnesses are set to be given enhanced support to help them take part in court proceedings.

The Scottish Government is allocating £950,000 towards a new centre where children and vulnerable adults will be able to give evidence without attending court.

The safe and secure facilities will include flexible hearing suites and vulnerable witness suites with a direct video link to court, a private evidence room with one-way glass to aid observation, and a specially designed sensory room with furnishings and quiet spaces.

The NSPCC Scotland has welcomed the new centre, which it says will help support victims of abuse.

The charity’s national head Matt Forde said: “It takes huge courage for survivors of abuse firstly to come forward and then to take part in the court process. A dedicated facility which would allow more children to avoid the trauma of a court case is hugely positive, but is just the first step in achieving a system that better supports victims.

“A recent NSPCC Scotland report found that children suffering sexual abuse often go without help because of a lack of specialist recovery services in many local authority areas.

“We want a Children’s House model to be adopted where full support for children’s psychological and emotional recovery following abuse is available under one roof, along with forensic services and facilities which will allow victims to give the best possible evidence to secure justice.”

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “This is the latest step towards achieving our ambition that children, wherever possible, should not have to give evidence in court during a criminal trial. It will make significant improvements to witnesses’ experience of the justice system in Glasgow. I am pleased to hear that there is scope for expansion in Scotland and where appropriate, these suites may also be used for vulnerable adult witnesses.

“We believe strongly that the justice system should be compassionate and trauma informed and able to respond effectively to the needs of the victims – both adults and children.”

Linda Jardine, interim director of children and family services at Children 1st, also welcomed the new facility.

"Making sure children and young people feel welcome, comfortable and safe means they can give better evidence without feeling anxious or experiencing further trauma,” she said.

“We especially welcome the continuing involvement of children, young people and adults in shaping the development of this new suite, so that it better meets their needs. The suite is another important marker on Scotland’s journey to ensure that practice, systems and culture support child witnesses to  recover and move on with their lives.”