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Help For Kids In Court

Courts Minister Matt Robson today launched the pilot of a new court service to help children and young people who give evidence in the criminal courts.

"The criminal court environment can be intimidating for many. For young people, and for children in particular, who come to give evidence, the court is frightening, says Matt Robson.

"Research shows that child victims and witnesses understand very little about the court process and that the provision of educational material and information decreases their stress and increases the accuracy and credibility of their testimony.

"A key aspect of the new service is the provision of educational materials. An existing booklet - What Happens Next? - has been revised. A new booklet for older children - Let’s Talk Court - has been developed along with an innovative activity booklet - Court Wise - that covers both age groups. There are pamphlets to support caregivers and siblings for when there is a guilty plea and a trial does not proceed, and for young witnesses of serious violence.

"The new service will be delivered in three stages by trained court Victim Advisers. First, the educational material will be provided as a package to be taken away, so that the supporting parent or caregiver can go through it together with the child or young person at home. Second, the young witness and caregiver will be familiarised with the court itself and what will happen. Third, any issues or queries will be answered," says Matt Robson.

The new service will be piloted at three courts – Whangarei High and District, Manukau District and Christchurch High and District – and will be rigorously evaluated to assist the national implementation in the 2002/2003 year.

Up to 4,000 children and young people give evidence in criminal court each year.

Ends

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