Children giving evidence in family courts

While over 1000 children under the age of 10 give evidence to the courts in England and Wales each year, very few do so in the family courts. Ian Peddie QC argues that the interests of justice would be well-served if more did so.

The presumption against children giving evidence in the family courts was removed by the Supreme Court in March 2010 in Re W (Children) [2010] UKSC 12. This led to the Family Justice Council producing its Guidelines in relation to children giving evidence in family proceedings.

Despite this, children are still seldom given the opportunity to give evidence in court.

Citing his recent experience acting in a family case where he was permitted to cross-examine a five-year-old girl, Ian Peddie QC describes the practical issues of allowing a young witness to participate. These included conducting the cross-examination in a safe environment away from the court, being accompanied by an adult she knew, and even the risk of the AV technology failing. Despite these obstacles, the evidence was helpful and assisted the judge in concluding that the allegations could not be relied upon.

The full article is published in the April 2014 issue of Family Law: April [2014] Fam Law 532

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