In response to widespread concern that children and young people in England and Wales are confused and intimidated by the criminal justice system, Victim Support has today released the first website designed specifically to tackle these issues.
Research shows that some under 18s may not realise they have been the victim of a crime, do not want to go to the police and are scared to testify in court. Worryingly, many even see violent crime, such as sexual abuse, mugging and rape, as a normal part of growing up.
The new website www.youandco.org.uk looks at different types of crime, how children and young people can feel after becoming a crime victim and what they can do if they want to get some support – with or without going to the police.
Children say their fears about testifying in court are increased by not knowing what to expect. Information about going to court is based on Victim Support’s expertise gained from running the country’s only specialist service supporting young witnesses as well as from supporting crime victims of all ages.
The website includes an interactive courtroom that illustrates what a Crown court and magistrates’ court looks like. There are hotspots in each room to answer questions a young witness may have, such as what you can take with you, where you will be stood in the courtroom and who does what.
It’s also possible to change how the court would look if the young person has been granted permission from the judge/magistrate to give evidence behind a screen, by live link away from the courtroom or if they needed an interpreter or intermediary to support them (known as special measures).
Other features include short videos of victims talking honestly about the impact a crime has had on them. These are all based on real events but played by actors.
Amanda Naylor, Senior Manager for Children and Young People at Victim Support said: “More under 18s are the victim of crime than any other age group, yet our research shows they don’t always realise they are crime victims and don’t know where to go to get help if they don’t want to go to the police.
“This is why it’s so important that there is somewhere, like this website, setting it out in a way that makes sense to children and young people. We planned and developed this website in collaboration with a panel of under 18s as we wanted to make sure it would work for them.
“We rely on donations to continue the face-to-face support our experts offer to young crime victims, including victims of child sexual exploitation.”
Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “Young people and children are some of the most vulnerable victims and witnesses we serve as prosecutors. Their evidence can often hold the key to convicting dangerous criminals and I welcome the innovative work that Victim Support is doing to take away some of the fear and uncertainty that can come with giving evidence.
“For our own part, we have recently published draft guidance for our prosecutors on speaking to witnesses at court, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with Victim Support on this important issue.”
Go to the You & Co website for more information.
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