New legislation to protect child witnesses during court trials

20 January, 2020

New legislation has been introduced in Scotland which supports child witnesses in relation to the most serious criminal cases.

The changes in legislation mean that child witnesses are now able to provide their evidence pre-recorded in certain High Court cases, which will ultimately prevent further trauma on the child which often occurs when they appear in court during a trial.

This announcement has been made by the Scottish Government as a direct result of the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act which was passed unanimously in May 2019.

The developments are part of a wider package that has been put in place since the Vulnerable Witnesses legislation, which was introduced in the Scottish Parliament in 2018.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk, officially opened a new Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service evidence and hearings suite in Glasgow in November 2019 and similar facilities are planned in Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen.

Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, commented: “Attending and giving evidence during a trial can be a traumatic process for anyone and for vulnerable witnesses, including children, this is even more the case. It is therefore important the right support is available to child witnesses to protect them from this. We therefore welcome this new legislation as a crucial step forward in protecting and supporting children and families who have been involved in serious crime.”