Child Protection Guidance 2021

Part 3: Identifying and responding to concerns about children 125 National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 Version 1.0 September 2021 Child giving evidence in criminal and civil proceedings 3.181 Children might be required to give evidence in court in criminal prosecution of suspected or reported perpetrators of abuse or neglect and also in civil proceedings, which would usually be in relation to children’s hearing proofs. A child might be required to give evidence about the same matters both in a criminal trial and in a children’s hearing proof application. If the child has been referred to a children’s hearing for the same matter, then proof proceedings are likely to take place before any criminal trial. 3.182 Decisions regarding any criminal prosecution will be taken by the Procurator Fiscal. When a decision is taken to raise criminal proceedings in which the child or children will be cited as witnesses and asked to give evidence, the relevant social worker should discuss the case with the police. 3.183 The police will advise the Procurator Fiscal of any concerns about the risk of further abuse of, or interference with, witnesses in the case, and with any other children to whom the suspected or reported perpetrator has access. This information is vital to assist Procurators Fiscal and the court to make informed decisions about bail, and any additional special measures which may be required. 3.184 If a suspected or reported perpetrator of abuse is to be prosecuted, or where there are children’s hearings proofs proceedings at which the child will give evidence, child witnesses should always be given information and support to prepare them for the experience of being a witness in court. 3.185 The CPPM may provide recommendations about bail and any necessary conditions for social work services, the Principal Reporter and Procurator Fiscal to discuss. The Sheriff will decide whether to grant bail or not. Agencies should consider the potential impact of an unsuccessful prosecution or hostile cross-examination of a child, and the implications for the future protection of that child and others. 3.186 Police and social work services should agree arrangements for convening planning meetings, setting up systems for sharing and updating information about the investigations progress, and co‑ordinating support. All relevant agencies and services should be involved in these discussions. Such cases require early involvement of the Procurator Fiscal and the Principal Reporter. Police and social work services should agree a strategy for communicating and liaising with the media and the public. If a large number of families, parents and carers are involved, the local authority should make special arrangements to keep them informed of events and plans to avoid the spread of unnecessary rumour and alarm. 3.187 Local authorities and other agencies must consider a range of issues, including whether the child needs counselling or therapy before criminal proceedings are concluded. The needs of the child take priority, and counselling should not be withheld solely on the basis of a forthcoming prosecution or proof. There is a Code of Practice aimed at facilitating the provision of therapeutic support to child witnesses in court proceedings. 3.188 Where counselling does take place, the person(s) offering counselling may be called as witnesses to explain the nature, extent and reasons for the counselling. Welfare agencies should discuss therapeutic intervention with the Procurator Fiscal so that they are aware of the potential impact of such counselling on any court proceedings.