witness in court

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Monday 7 April 2008 12.09pm
Can a thirteen year old who has already given evidence via a video link a year ago about an attack on another 13 year old, be forced to go to court to give evidence against several of the offenders who attend her school?
My relation has now had a change of heart because of the implication of being a ' grass ' I think in a school with two thousand people in! Especially as a year later she has befriended some of the defendants?
The police have been told that she does not want to give evidence, but have insisted that she will have to attend, she is already very vulnerable and the fear is she may run away.
Tuesday 8 April 2008 2.22pm
I'd have thought that if she has befriended the defendants she is surely not in a position to testify against them, since her friendship with them will influence her testimony.
Tuesday 8 April 2008 4.09pm
I did criminal legal work for some years until 2005 - both prosecuting and defending. I have often dealt with children giving evidence. If children are being taken to court in London this is likely to be a serious attack - prosecutors in London really only prosecute the serious cases involving children (unlike in other areas of the country).

The short answer is she can be forced to go to court by way of a witness summons, but it is unlikely that it would be requested by the Crown because she is young. However, this might lead to the collapse of the case and justice not being done in what sounds like a gang attack - the alleged offenders may get away with a serious offence.

The fact that she does not want to give evidence is not good enough. If it is considered in the public interest to prosecute, then witnesses of whatever age are expected to carry out their public duty. If she withdraws her evidence on the basis that she was not telling the truth, she could find herself open to a charge of perverting / attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Children are automatically entitled to "special measures" when they give evidence. She has probably given her evidence in chief on video and will be cross-examined by videolink in another room from the court with an "appropriate adult" with her. She will not at any point come face to face with the alleged offenders. She may ask to give her evidence from behind a screen or to have her voice altered if she is scared of repercussions. This can all be accommodated.
It is important that witnesses are not intimidated into not giving evidence or being concerned that they are being a "grass." It is this attitude that, in part, has lead to the rise of street gangs.

I used to prosecute and defend regularly at Tower Bridge magistrates' Balham Youth Court, Camberwell Green mags and youth court, Inner London Crown Court, Blackfriars and Southwark, and you all need to be aware that youth crime - and in particular attacks by children on children - is becoming more prevalent and is seriously nasty. This is the stage at which it can be nipped in the bud by the youth court.

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