Child sex abuse cases collapsing in court as children are denied the support they need to give evidence, says NSPCC

Only 2% of child witnesses receive professional guidance during criminal proceedings, according to the children's  charity

Children giving evidence in court in sexual abuse cases need to be given more support, with many suffering from stress ahead of a trial, the NSPCC has said.

The children's charity warned some cases are collapsing because not enough is done to help vulnerable witnesses.

Chief executive Peter Wanless has called for judges and barristers to be given compulsory training in how to question child witnesses in an appropriate way, paying specific attention to their welfare.

The charity has also demanded that children who testify during such sex abuse cases are offered support from a registered intermediary.

Fresh guidelines on child sex abuse cases are expected later this month.

Fewer than a quarter of the 23,000 child sex offences recorded in England and Wales last year resulted in prosecution, according to the charity's research.

Mr Wanless said, "These children have to publicly relive the most traumatic, upsetting and humiliating experience of their lives in order to try and get justice.

"A victim of child sex abuse is usually the sole witness to the crime and the strength of the case lies in their testimony.

"It is vital that children are supported by a registered intermediary when they are interviewed by the police and if they give evidence in a trial. Justice can only be served if they are able to give their best evidence."

He said defence barristers have been known to aggressively cross-examine child witnesses - challenging, criticising and even accusing them of lying until they feel that "they are the ones in the dock".

"If there is concern that a child can't withstand the experience of giving evidence in a trial, there is a chance that the case will have to be dropped," he said.

"Dealing with the police and the courts can be a daunting and intimidating experience for an adult, let alone a child. Where is the justice in putting children in a position where they don't know what is going on, they can't understand the questions and are unable to make themselves understood?

"All this does is risk the child being further traumatised and the guilty walking free."

Currently just 2 per cent of child witnesses in criminal court cases receive guidance on criminal proceedings from registered advisers, the NSPCC said, and yet at least half said they were unable to understand some of the questions they had been asked.

The research showed that more than 50 percent of child witnesses reported symptoms of stress ahead of a trial, including panic attacks, self-harm and difficulty sleeping.

The charity's own ChildLine service conducted over 1,000 counselling sessions with children worried about attending court.

New Crown Prosecution Service guidelines on prosecuting sexual abuse cases involving children are due to be released later this month.

Writing in the New Statesman last month, Mr Wanless said there has to be an end to "hostile cross-examination".

He wrote, "For some time the NSPCC has been calling for changes to the culture and practice of the courtroom. The Government is now introducing a pilot of pre-recorded cross-examination that would happen before the trial and would reduce stress and delays for young witnesses.

"I am also pleased that the Lord Chief Justice has said he will introduce a select pool of judges with specialist training for complex child abuse cases. But not all child abuse cases are complex and more must be done now to change the treatment of vulnerable witnesses."

He called for compulsory training for judges and barristers and said all legal advocates should be trained in how to question child witnesses in an appropriate way, paying specific attention to their welfare.

He added, "In the midst of this important and often complex debate let's not forget that at the heart of the matter are children. And their welfare must not be sacrificed in the pursuit of justice."

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Development Manager (District Heating)

£55000 Per Annum plus company car and bonus scheme: The Green Recruitment Comp...

Chemical Engineer/Project Coordinator

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Chemical Eng...

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn