Child witnesses to be given chance to testify by video

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said new regulations would mean youngsters would be spared the trauma of giving evidence during a trial. Picture:John Devlin
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said new regulations would mean youngsters would be spared the trauma of giving evidence during a trial. Picture:John Devlin
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Child witnesses in the most serious court cases will be able to give their evidence on a video recorded before the trial from early 2020.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said new regulations had been laid at Holyrood to introduce the measure.

Being able to record testimony on video will spare youngsters the “trauma of giving evidence during a trial” Mr Yousaf said, as he announced the change would come in from January 20 next year.

The new pre-recording provisions will initially cover certain cases being prosecuted in the High Court, such as murder, culpable homicide and assault to the danger of life, as well as some domestic abuse trials, sex abuse trials and prosecutions for human trafficking and exploitation.

The Justice Secretary used a visit to a new recording suite in Glasgow to confirm commencement regulations for the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2019 have now been laid in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Yousaf opened the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service’s evidence and hearings facility with Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian.

He said: “Today we have laid the regulations to ensure that any child witness under the age of 18 giving evidence in the most serious cases will be allowed to have it pre-recorded, sparing them the trauma of giving evidence during a trial.

“This first phase of implementing the new pre-recording rule will cover certain cases in the High Court.

“As these reforms will affect live cases it is necessary to make transitional arrangements so the new rule will apply to cases where the accused first appears on petition on or after January 20 2020. We plan to ensure that these reforms are evaluated at each stage of the rollout to ensure the smooth implementation in practice of such important changes in how these vulnerable children will give their evidence.”

The Justice Secretary added: “I have said previously that legislative reform is only a small part of the work that is needed to ensure that there is much greater use of pre-recording within the justice system.

“The other part of that jigsaw is why we are here today - by beginning the process on delivering sufficient and modern facilities and reliable pre-recording technology.”