Influencing Policy on Young Witnesses in Criminal Proceedings

Impact: Public Policy Impact, Societial Impact


The last three decades have witnessed considerable interest in the position of children and young people acting as witnesses in criminal cases and on how best to facilitate them to give their best evidence and minimise the trauma involved. Governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have introduced a raft of policies and procedures in order to ensure that young witnesses are able to give their best evidence and receive the support they need. Despite these efforts, however, research conducted by Plotnikoff and Woolfson (2004; 2009) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland demonstrated a continuing gap between policy and the practice reality of many children’s experiences of giving evidence in criminal courts. The small number of Northern Ireland interviews in these studies, however, and evidence of on-going difficulties experienced by young witnesses, pointed to the need for additional research in Northern Ireland to explore the issues further and inform policy and practice in this jurisdiction. The Department of Justice (NI), therefore, commissioned a research team with members from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, Queen’s University Belfast and the NSPCC (Northern Ireland) to undertake research into the views and experiences of young witnesses giving evidence in criminal proceedings in Northern Ireland. This research is presented as an example of impact because its recommendations have influenced the work of two major reviews into the services provided to victims and witnesses of crime in Northern Ireland and, subsequently, the new five year draft strategy for victims and witnesses of crime.

Impact statusOngoing
Category of impactPublic Policy Impact, Societial Impact