Belfast Telegraph

Child victims 'need court support'

Some child victims in Northern Ireland feel abused a second time while giving evidence about their experiences in court, a leading support charity said.

Children should be allowed to testify remotely via a pre-recorded interview which is played during court proceedings throughout the country, the NSPCC said.

The organisation said support services should be expanded and barristers must receive more training on the needs of child witnesses.

Bronagh Muldoon, NSPCC service manager, said: "It is vital that children are not subjected to harrowing experiences in court to get the justice they deserve.

"Whilst it is evident we are leading the way here in Northern Ireland compared to other parts of the UK, some children still feel they are being abused for a second time when they give evidence.

"No doubt we have come a long way but there are additional things we can do to ensure children are supported to give their best evidence."

The charity's Young Witness Service, which receives substantial funding from Stormont's Justice Department, has operated for more than 15 years.

It is available in all courts and has supported more than 4,000 children and young people by providing the services of fully qualified social workers.

Ms Muldoon added: "Some young witnesses experience searing cross-examinations from lawyers which they report as belittling and bewildering while others have been left distressed after encountering their abuser in the court premises."

The NSPCC launched the first off site live link project in Londonderry in 2008 and further trials are being rolled out by the Justice Department.

An alternative to protecting children from the stress of giving evidence is being tested in England and involves pre-recording of cross-examinations, footage of which is viewed on screen as part of court proceedings.

The NSPCC acknowledged progress in training barristers and police officers in how to question children and young people effectively.

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