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Falling short? A snapshot of young witness policy and practice

A report for the NSPCC, revisiting ‘Measuring up? Evaluating implementation of Government commitments to young witnesses in criminal proceedings’

Authors: Joyce Plotnikoff and Richard Woolfson

Children who are witnesses in court may have lived through trauma and abuse and their involvement in the criminal justice system can have a big impact on their recovery. Positive experiences can help them move forward but negative experiences can be damaging.

Receiving tailored support at every step of the witness process is a crucial part of helping children who have been abused get back on track.

In 2009, we published a report examining how well government policy and practice guidance met the needs of young witnesses in England and Wales (Plotnikoff and Woolfson, 2009).

Ten years later, the researchers gathered views from 272 criminal justice policymakers and practitioners to find out what has improved and what work still needs to be done.

Key findings

The policy and practice framework for young witnesses in England and Wales has improved since 2009, but provision of support is inconsistent. This means some children are still at risk of having negative experiences and being retraumatised.