Live link witness scheme hailed
A scheme which enables fearful teenagers to testify by live link in criminal cases should be extended to courts throughout Northern Ireland, a children's charity has said.
It has operated on a trial basis in Derry Courthouse since January 2008.
The NSPCC, which carried out an evaluation, claimed the scheme has reduced stress levels among young people leading more of them to be prepared to give evidence without having to go into the witness box.
The charity has now recommended the facility become permanent in Derry as well as being introduced to all courthouses.
Janique Burden, manager of the NSPCC's Young Witness Service, said: "The role of the Young Witness Service (YWS) is to provide support and information to young prosecution witnesses (under 18) in criminal cases.
"The concept of young witnesses giving evidence via a TV live link was introduced in recognition of the fact that giving evidence in open court can be a traumatic experience for a young person, particularly when the defendant is a relative or family friend. It is vital that we work to minimise their stress.
"While in some courts young witnesses currently give evidence in a separate room in the courthouse through a court TV link, there is an issue around the fact that court buildings are simply not child friendly, and that young witnesses could encounter the defendant and his or her family and friends in the court buildings.
"The live link facility allows the young witness to communicate with the court from another building away from the courthouse, where they can receive the necessary support and are enabled to give their best evidence.
"The pilot sought to measure the live link's effectiveness for the young people, but also to ensure it was fit for purpose for those trying and defending cases."