Children in court - Part 1

Appendix III

Briefing notes for Child Witness Service volunteers

Familiarisation visit

General points

1. The Child Liaison Officer arranges with the officer in the case and the Witness Service co-ordinator a suitable date and time for the visit.

2. The visits are arranged at the convenience of the child and carer.

3. Visits normally take place at either 9 am, 1 pm or 4.15 pm (and the initial visit lasts approximately 30 minutes). A further visit may be arranged if the child requests or requires it. The first visit will be timetabled to allow flexibility for this to occur, if at all possible.

The visit

1. The Child Liaison Officer greets the child/carer and the officer along with the usher and Witness Service volunteer in the reception area.

2. The visit covers the following areas of the building:

a) Waiting Room

b) CCTV Link Room

c) A brief look at a court room

and the visit is normally conducted in that order.

3. The child has the opportunity to speak through the CCTV link equipment.

4. At the conclusion of the court visit the child is shown to the Child Witness waiting room to enable the child and the Witness Service volunteer to get to know one another. The Home Office Child Witness Pack is likely to be used at this stage.


General points

1. In most circumstances the child/carer enter and leave the court by the main entrance. If special arrangements are needed the Witness Service volunteer will liaise with the CLO in the first instance.

2. The child/carer are escorted to the waiting room by either the Child Liaison Officer, Witness Service volunteer, usher or security.

The trial

1. Prior to the empanelling of the jury, the judge and counsel meet the child with the Witness Service volunteer to introduce themselves.

2. The usher takes the child to the appropriate room and returns the child to the waiting room.

3. Where CCTV is used and the Jury are empanelled, the Witness Service volunteer is sworn and he/she is then asked if they have received a sheet of instructions which they should hold while the Judge reads the instructions out.

4. The usher then takes the Witness Service volunteer to the ground floor in order to collect the child and take them both to the CCTV link room via the Judges' lift.

CCTV link room

1. The usher positions the child so that their whole face is clearly seen on the monitor and the Witness Service volunteer sits by the side of the child completely out of view.

2. The usher also remains in the CCTV link room as the communication point between the Court room and the CCTV link room.

3. The child normally sees the video that was made (unless the content of it was not agreed) followed by cross examination from defence counsel and maybe some re-examination by prosecution counsel.

4. The judge will allow short breaks for the child but the child must remain in the CCTV link room unless the Judge instructs to the contrary.

5. If the lunchtime adjournment intervenes at any stage of the child's evidence, then the Witness Service volunteer will look after the child for that period. The bail conditions/arrangements whilst the child is in the building will be communicated to the Witness Service volunteer.

6. If the child become distressed the Witness Service volunteer must not touch the child in any way other than hand them tissues or a cup of water which will be available.

7. Once the child's evidence is complete and the child released by the judge, usher escorts them to the ground floor waiting area.

8. The child/carer must not be unduly delayed from leaving the court building.

Please remember if the defendant is on bail they will be allowed to leave the dock 20 minutes after the case has finished each day.

June 1996

Briefing notes for pre-trial visits

Visits to the Court by child witnesses (or other witnesses whose mental handicap, special needs or other disability may make it appropriate)

1. Unless approached by the prosecution, Social Services etc. CLO will delay making contact until after the PDH. Preliminary notification that a child witness is involved to be given to the Witness Service Coordinator as soon as possible.

2. At the PDH the Judge will ask the Prosecution if the Witness Service are to be nominated as the independent adult ie using the Home Office Child Witness Pack to provide support and information pre, during and post trial. Defence Counsel will be given the opportunity to object to that person/agency.

3. Once this has been agreed the name of the Witness Service volunteer must be given to the CLO for circulation to the Prosecution and Defence - no later than 10 days after the PDH.

4. CLO to liaise with the Witness Service co-ordinator and other agencies over the timing of the visit, so that the Witness Service volunteer can be available for the visit(s).

5. CLO and Witness Service volunteer to greet the child on arrival. CLO to show the child a courtroom and the CCTV Link room when appropriate where the equipment can be demonstrated. The Witness Service volunteer to be present but in a passive capacity.

6. After the child has been shown the waiting room, the Witness Service volunteer will take over to enable him/her to get to know the child ie go through the appropriate part of the Child Witness Pack. If necessary the CLO to be contacted if the child has any further questions outside the agreed role of the Witness Service volunteer.

7. At the conclusion of the visit/or visits, the companion to complete the agreed proforma and hand it to the CLO for circulation.

8. Original of form to be available to trial judge.

June 1996

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