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Measuring up?: evaluating implementation of government commitments to young witnesses in criminal proceedings

In 2004 the NSPCC and Victim Support described the experiences of 50 young witnesses in their report In Their Own Words. The report concluded that, despite a raft of policies and procedures intended to facilitate children's evidence, their experiences revealed an implementation gap between policy and delivery. This is the executive summary of a study that considers whether the implementation gap has narrowed since 2004.

The findings are based on interviews with 182 young witnesses aged 5-19 (67% of whom were victims of crime), parents of 172 of these young people as well as information received from the managers of 52 Witness Services and seven young witness support schemes. The findings show that there is still a significant gap between the vision of policy and the reality of many children's experiences.

The picture remains disappointing in respect of: visually recorded statements, assistance before trial, standards of questioning at court, emotional support for young witnesses while they give evidence. The report concludes with a number of recommendations for the CUP, police, Office for Criminal Justice Reform and other relevant bodies.

Richard Woolfson
Joyce Plotnikoff
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children