Child witnesses in court cases will be able to give evidence in pre-recorded interviews under a new scheme announced by the Scottish Government.
Police officers and social workers will be able to interview children involved in criminal trials at the High Court as part of an initiative aimed at reducing trauma experienced during court cases.
The approach is already used in children’s hearings, but Scotland’s Justice Secretary Keith Brown said the initiative aims to gather “the child’s best evidence at the earliest opportunity” in a less stressful environment.
Speaking after a visit to Police Scotland’s training college at Tulliallan in Fife, Mr Brown said: “It is widely recognised that child victims and witnesses can be particularly vulnerable, especially in the circumstances which lead to a joint investigative interview being necessary.
“When gathering information from children, who are often already extremely traumatised, we must ensure the interview is as child-focused and stress-free as possible.
“The new Scottish child interview model will deliver an interview process that secures the child’s best evidence at the earliest opportunity and minimises the risk of further traumatisation.
“Ensuring the interests of the child are central to everything we do. It is a fundamental aspect of our Bairns’ Hoose vision within Scotland and one that we are committed to delivering by the end of the parliamentary term.”
The scheme, backed by £2 million of government funding, is being included in police officer training.
Assistant Chief Constable Judi Heaton said: “These awards are the culmination of the commitment by Police Scotland and partners to develop an interview model that reforms and enhances how children are treated within the criminal justice system.
“The programme of training continues to be implemented throughout Scotland, ensuring our officers better support and meet the needs of child victims and witnesses.”
Director of Social Work Scotland Ben Farrugia said: “After more than three years of work building a modern child interview model fit for Scotland’s aspirations, we are delighted to be celebrating the success of our first cohorts of students – compassionate and skilful police offers and social workers each intent on providing the best support possible for children at times of real vulnerability and stress.”