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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Young victims and witnesses in court

If you are under 18 and have been a victim or witness of a crime you may be asked to give evidence. Appearing in court can feel intimidating, so you can give evidence in other ways like using a video link or on videotape. Find out what these are.

Appearing in court as a witness or a victim

You might be allowed to give evidence in private, in writing or by video

Extra care is given to young people who appear in court. If you are under 18 and have been the victim of a crime, or witnessed one, you may be asked to give evidence in court.

You will have to appear in the witness box and give evidence to lawyers or the judge in the court.

Going to court can feel intimidating, especially if you are a victim, so you can give evidence:

  • in private
  • in writing
  • using video

These are some of the 'special measures' courts use for vulnerable witnesses. These are dealt with in more detail in the section below.

When you don’t have to appear in court

In many cases the information in your written or video-recorded statement may be enough and you will not have to appear in court at all.

This happens most often when the defendant has pleaded guilty.

'Special measures' for protecting young witnesses or victims in court

‘Special measures’ are available at court for victims and witness under 18 years of age.

This means that the court will do what it can to put you at ease so you can give evidence without feeling intimidated.

Special measures can include:

  • screens around the witness box - to prevent you from having to see the defendant
  • evidence using a live link - you can sit in a room outside the courtroom and give evidence using a live television link to the courtroom
  • video recorded evidence - your statement to the police is videotaped and played to the court
  • removal of wigs and gowns - the judge and lawyers in the Crown Court do this so the court feels less formal
  • evidence given in private - members of the public are not allowed in the court room (for sexual offences and cases involving intimidation)
  • use of communication aids (for example an alphabet board)
  • examination through an ‘intermediary’ - who will help you understand questions that you are asked, and help the court understand your answers

If you feel that giving evidence like this would help you, you can speak to:

  • the police
  • someone at the court
  • the legal adviser involved with your case

Youth courts

Most trials involving defendants between the age of ten and seventeen will take place in youth courts, which are a special type of magistrates’ court.

Youth courts are not open to the public, and the magistrates and judges have special training for hearings involving children and young people.

Further information for young witnesses and their parents

The organisations below can give you help and advice if you are a young person and you have to appear in court.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)

The NSPCC has a Young Witness Support program offering advice for children appearing in court.

You can call them on the freephone telephone number 0808 800 5000, which is open 24 hours a day, every day.

You may be given a video called 'Giving Evidence – what's it really like?' before you have to go to court. This is produced by the NSPCC.

This video aims to help you feel more confident giving evidence.

Victim Support

Victim Support is a charity that provides support to victims, witnesses and their families.

Additional links

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