HC Deb 20 June 1996 vol 279 c525W
Mr. Cox

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if all courts in England and Wales now have a system of providing privacy for a child who is required to give evidence in court cases. [32875]

Mr. Streeter

I have asked the chief executive of the Court Service to reply directly to the hon. Member in respect of the operational arrangements for the Crown court, county court and High Court. The magistrates' courts are a locally managed service and responsibility for putting in place privacy systems for child witnesses rests with the relevant magistrates' courts committee. My Department is always willing to advise on such systems which include the provision of screens to shield witnesses, and the use of video and television links. Courts without such equipment can make arrangements with other courts to use their facilities. Where possible, every effort is made by court staff to comply with requests for a child witness to wait separately or to arrive and depart separately.

Letter from M. D. Huebner to Mr. Tom Cox, dated 20 June 1996: The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, has asked me to reply to your Question about facilities for children giving evidence in court cases. As Chief Executive of the Court Service I can reply in respect of the county courts, Crown Court and High Court. It is for the judge presiding at the trial to determine whether it is appropriate for a child's evidence to be given by way of a live television link and whether to allow a video recording of an interview with a child to be allowed as the child's evidence in chief. 67 of the 92 Crown Court Centres in England and Wales have live television links to enable children to give evidence from a separate room and to play video recorded evidence. It is always open to the judge at a court centre without a live TV link to order a case to be transferred to a centre so equipped. Centres without these facilities can use screens which prevent the child and defendant seeing each other. The requirement for additional television link systems is kept constantly under review and additional systems are installed where a need is shown. The civil courts do not have television links. However, it is very rare for children to give oral evidence in civil proceedings or to be present in court. Instead, the child is represented by a court welfare officer or guardian ad litem who gives evidence on his or her behalf. If a child does have to give evidence, screens can be used. Most civil cases are held privately in chambers so that only the parties to the case and their legal representatives are present.