Letter: Use of children's evidence in court

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was dismayed to read Beatrix Campbell's comments on the conduct of child abuse cases in the criminal courts ('Screening out stories of abuse', 2O October). She says that as a result of The Memorandum of Good Practice (HMSO) 'moving at the child's pace is out. Showing the child her/his video (to refresh memory) is out'. She goes on to say: 'To many professionals the memorandum simply looks like another way to stop children telling their stories.'

I have been trying child abuse cases since the memorandum was published and can state that Ms Campbell's comments are simply not true. Every consideration is given to the child attending my court. They are introduced to the court and the TV and video link system before the trial begins, during a familiarisation visit. They are introduced to the judge and counsel privately. Indeed, at this court centre, we have special rooms and facilities provided for the sole use of the child and their families.

All this is to put the child at ease and helps the judge to determine the pace at which the child can be taken through the evidence. I generally never let a child be examined for more than half an hour at any one time. Where leave has been given for an interview on video to be played to the jury, the children have it played back to them first, before they are asked any questions. If the video is not to be played they can still see it first to refresh their memories.

Ms Campbell's article gives a very misleading impression of the way modern trials are conducted.

Yours faithfully,

ROGER SANDERS

Harrow, Middlesex

20 October

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