Children in court - Part 1
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.
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%)|
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|
|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|
|Foster father||2 (2%)|
|Cohabitee/ stepfather||6 (6%)|
|Other relative||9 (8%)|
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.
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.
|Indecent assault||25 (53%)|
|Gross indecency||8 (17%)|
|ABH/ assault||3 (6%)|
|Threat to kill||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.
13. A single defendent was counted more than once in those cases where several children were called to give evidence. The relationship was not known in the case of one child.