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Child witnesses

Child witnesses and complainants are afforded special protection under the law.

The court process can add to the stress of a child victim. However, ensuring they are adequately prepared as a witness can reduce their anxiety and enable them to better participate in court proceedings.

Once charges are laid, police should refer child victims of crime and witnesses to the Child Witness Service, which is part of the Department of the Attorney General.

A child witness preparation officer (CWPO) will be allocated to the child, and can advise on the Child Witness Service and help make an appointment.

The Child Witness Service provides information about the court process and keeps parents/guardians of child witnesses informed about each court appearance made by the accused person.

The court proceedings can be long and a trial may take up to two years. The Child Witness Service will provide support until all court proceedings are finished.

Go to the Child Witness Service page on this website for more information.

What happens in court?

If the accused person pleads 'not guilty' and the matter proceeds to a trial, the child's evidence will be required.

A child's recorded interview may be used as the main evidence in the trial. The child will still be required to answer additional questions during the trial.

In most instances, a child witness will give evidence from a remote room so they will not see the accused person. This room is separate to the main courtroom and uses closed-circuit television.

The accused person will not be allowed to question or speak to the child.

How will the child give evidence?

The way that the child gives evidence will depend on the type of charge, age of the child and their role in the trial. Children can either give their evidence in open court or via closed circuit television (CCTV).

Children do not automatically get to give their evidence via CCTV. Please speak with your CWPO to discuss your child's individual situation.

Does the child need to go to every court appearance?

It is not necessary for you or your child to attend all court appearances, as your CWPO can tell you what happened. If you or your child wants to go to court, contact your CWPO to talk about whether this is appropriate and the court support that is available.

Last updated: 12-Apr-2019

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