May 30, 2009

SHOCKING figures obtained by the Sunday Express reveal the harrowing ordeal experienced by children forced to give evidence in Britain’s courts.

A staggering 45 per cent of minors aged between four and 17 endure the intimidation of coming face to face with defendants inside court buildings and on average wait nearly six hours before being called to give evidence.

Many are giving evidence against defendants who have sexually abused them as was the case of the four-year-old girl who was raped by one of Baby Peter’s killers when she was just two years old.

The girl waited four and half hours in a room with a stranger, a court usher, at the Old Bailey before giving evidence via video link for 45 minuets at the trial of the rapist, the sadistic boyfriend of baby Peter’s mother.

On Friday he was sentenced to 12 years for baby Peters death and life for raping the little girl and was told by judge Stephen Kramer he must serve a minimum of 10 years. He cannot be named for legal reasons.

We can also reveal that a further two thirds of those children who give evidence via video link from another room in the court are accompanied by someone they do not know, usually a court usher, adding to their anxiety.

A further 49 per cent did not understand the questions asked by barristers and 79 per cent are worried or anxious in the days leading up to their court appearance.

The figures compiled by the NSPCC after a survey into 200 of the estimated 1,200 four to 17 years olds who give evidence annually, paint a frightening picture of how Britains courts are letting our children down.

They mean nearly half of all children who give evidence face being intimidated by defendants before they even give evidence.

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