Children in court - Part 1

Chapter three

The project cases

This chapter gives information about the characteristics of 107 young witnesses and their relationship to the defendant. Further information is provided about a subset of cases: how the children gave evidence, the charges faced by defendants and case outcomes.

The children

Volunteers' questionnaires provided information about 107 young witnesses in 55 cases dealt with at four Crown Court centres. The children's ages ranged from six to 17 and the average age was 13. Volunteers reported the children's ethnic background as follows:

Numbers of children of each ethnic background
White European 86 (80%)
African Caribbean 5 (5%)
Black African 5 (5%)
Asian 7 (7%)
Other 4 (4%)

Volunteers recorded factors requiring special consideration about nine children (eight per cent). In the following table, two of the factors relate to the same child:

Numbers of children with special needs or other special considerations
Learning difficulties 4
Epilepsy 2
Used sign language 1
In local authority care 3

The relationships of defendants to young witnesses were as follows: 13

Relationship of defendants to children
Father 10 (9%)
Foster father 2 (2%)
Cohabitee/ stepfather 6 (6%)
Other relative 9 (8%)
Teacher 7 (7%)
Other 72 (67%)

Several defendants in the 'other' category were known to the child and included neighbours, young people from the same school and visitors to the household.

Children's evidence

A total of 83 children gave evidence at trial at all four courts. Volunteers noted that at least eight of these children (ten per cent) were involved in re-trials. This information was not specifically requested and the actual number of children involved in re-trials may have been higher.

Additional information was collected at Courts A and B about the manner of the evidence of the 42 children who were called as witnesses. A videotaped interview was shown as the evidence-in-chief of 23 of these children (55% of the 42). The manner in which they gave evidence was as follows:

Manner of children's evidence
Using the CCTV link 22 (52%)
In open court 13 (31%)
Behind screens 7 (17%)

Charge and case outcome

Information was available for the 47 cases at Courts A and B about the principal charge.

Principal charge
Indecent assault 25 (53%)
Gross indecency 8 (17%)
Robbery 5 (11%)
ABH/ assault 3 (6%)
GBH 3 (6%)
Rape 1 (2%)
Threat to kill 1 (2%)
Affray 1 (2%)

The outcome was known of 26 trials at Courts A and B, some of which involved several child witnesses. Sixteen trials (62%) resulted in convictions and 10 (38%) in acquittals. Sentences were known for 13 convicted defendants. All were sent to prison for a period ranging from nine months to five years.

top of page