Letter: Criminal Justice Act: probation, magistrates' fines, children's testimony

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The Independent Online
Sir: While we welcome the introduction of the Criminal Justice Act (report, 1 October), we feel that it does not go far enough. Child witnesses, who may have already suffered terrible abuse, could still be subject to the trauma that the legal system can inflict.

The Act makes provision for a video-recorded interview with a child to be admissible as evidence in court, but children will still have to be available for cross-examination either in open court, or much more likely via a live video link or from behind a screen. The NSPCC has seen many cases collapse as a result of children breaking down in all three situations and demands further action to spare them this ordeal.

We are calling for children to be able to give evidence at a pre-trial hearing in judges' chambers and for that hearing to be video-recorded so that the child will never have to appear in court.

Meanwhile, measures should be taken to: reduce the long delays before a case comes to trial; ensure the availability of video-link facilities in all courtrooms; and to end the use of wigs and gowns by judges and barristers.

Yours sincerely,

JIM HARDING

Director

Children's Services

NSPCC

London, EC1

1 October

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