A role for a support person for child witnesses in criminal proceedings

Jane Morgan, John Williams

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3 Citations (Scopus)


The 1989 Children Act greatly extends and enhances the role of the guardian ad litem (GAL) as the officer appointed by the court to safeguard and protect the welfare of the child in civil child protection proceedings. But how do children fare when they are involved as witnesses in criminal proceedings? Since the latter part of the 1980s it has been recognized that their immatunty requires a more sensitive and caring approach than that adopted for adults in the criminal courts. As a result a number of innovative procedures intended to alleviate stress in child witnesses have been introduced. But one outstanding issue of major importance, that of providing support for children before and during an appearance in a criminal court, needs to be addressed urgently: the GAL is only available to children in civil proceedings. Drawing on the experience of the United States, where Victim Assistants are used to provide help and support for child victims and witnesses, and where the appointment of GALs for child victims in criminal proceedings is gaining increasing acceptance, the authors argue that the American example offers much that may usefully be adopted in tailoring the British system to the special needs of child witnesses. A number of models for the role of the Support Person for child witnesses in the British system are put forward for consideration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-121
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1993


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