Giving evidence in court is causing thousands of child victims of sexual abuse to feel depressed, frightened and potentially suicidal, research by the NSPCC has revealed.
Last year, the charity helped 1,200 children who were concerned about giving evidence in court – an 11% rise on the number who called with concerns the previous year. Some told ChildLine their court ordeal had led them to self-harm or contemplate suicide.
This is despite the fact that a major government inquiry in 1989 said children should never be forced to give evidence in a courtroom.
A Freedom of Information request by the NSPCC, sent to 40 police forces in England, revealed that – despite recommendations that children should only be required to give evidence in a court room if they wished to – 99% of the 20,000 plus children who give evidence every year still have to do so from a court building. This is due to the lack of video link sites available.
The charity released the data today as part of its newly-launched ‘Order In Court’ campaign. It seeks to reduce the distress that children feel when participating in criminal proceedings by calling for the justice system to be more fit for children.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “It’s criminal that after a quarter of a century, children are still being subjected to harrowing experiences in court to get the justice they deserve.”
“If this is the view that children have of the court experience it’s likely to discourage others who have suffered to come forward.”
Some parents of children who have had to give evidence in court told the NSPCC their treatment was ‘barbaric’, saying: “I’d never seen a child in so much distress”.