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Canada — Helping a Child be a Witness in Court: 101 Things to Know, Say and Do

June 8, 2011 Comments off

Helping a Child be a Witness in Court: 101 Things to Know, Say and Do
Source: Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System

This is the third “Helping Hands” guide on skill building and tools for helpers and healers. The first two were “Helping an Abused Woman” and “Helping Abused Women in Shelters.” Here we address the needs of children and teenagers who experienced or witnessed interpersonal criminal offences and who might be called to testify in criminal or youth court. At the Child Witness Project of the Centre for Children & Families in the Justice System, we have since 1987 assisted thousands of children and teenagers in this position. In the months preceding a testimony date, we explain what to expect in the legal process, teach basic testimony skills and help them manage any anxieties and worries related to the role of witness. We advocate as necessary for access to testimonial aids and liaise with key actors in the legal process, such as investigating officers and prosecutors, to facilitate the conditions under which each child can testify to the best of his or her ability. On the day of testimony, we help them wait in safety, we may play the role of support person during testimony, and will debrief the experience once concluded. This booklet represents a package of our experiences so court supporters across Canada and elsewhere can better understand and meet the needs of child and teen witnesses.

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