Going to court as a witness
Children can be the victim of crime, or see and hear something about a crime that can make them a witness in a court case.
Because children are at risk of being lead or influenced when giving evidence, there are rules to guide them through the process, and to make sure they are not traumatised.
Taping your child's statement
Police will normally conduct a Criminal Forensic Interview (CFI) where they video tape your child’s statement so it can be played in court as their evidence.
The police will ask a series of questions to establish whether your child can understand and answer questions reliably.
The video or statement is then handed to the prosecutor.
Meeting your child
The prosecutor will usually meet your child and go through their evidence with them.
A Witness Assistance Service (WAS) officer will also be in this meeting. They will establish a rapport with your child to make them feel comfortable.
During this meeting, the child will be assessed to see:
- if they can recall the events and reliably answer questions
- if they can understand what is being asked
- if they are likely to agree to suggestions rather than what happened
- if they are likely to become traumatised again.
If the child is assessed as not being able to give evidence, options will be discussed with the parents or guardians. This may include withdrawing until the child is older.
If your child goes to court
If the child is capable of giving evidence, they will be prepared for court. Children are vulnerable witnesses under the law.
- they can have a support person with them
- a screen or partition can be used so they can’t see the accused
- the court may be closed to the public
- they can give their evidence over video link
Young children or children who are victims of sexual or serious violence are considered to be protected children under the law.
- they only have to give their evidence once
- don’t have to appear at hearings before a trial
- their evidence can be pre-recorded so they don’t have to give evidence in front of a jury.
Support for your child in court
Parents are encouraged to support their child as much as possible.
However, if you are also a witness in the case, you can’t be with them when they discuss or give evidence.
Any adult giving support to a child may not talk to or respond to questions asked by the child in court.
A Witness Assistance Service officer will normally support your child when they give evidence.
Last updated: 24 June 2020
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