Long pledges support for Young Witness Service

Alliance MP Naomi Long has highlighted the hard work and dedication behind the Young Witness Service in Northern Ireland, pledging her support to see the service expanded and further reforms of court practices to support young witnesses.

The MP for East Belfast was speaking after she met with employees and volunteers from the scheme in Belfast, where she witnessed first-hand the support offered to children who must give evidence in court.

Naomi Long MP said: “Today’s visit highlighted the extraordinary work the Young Witness Service carries out daily, providing a vital support network to children and their families who find themselves facing the stresses associated with court proceedings.

“Giving evidence in court can be daunting for adults; however, the effects on children and their families who find themselves dealing with not only judges and lawyers, but the legalistic language, formality of proceedings and inevitable delays can be even more accute. This is why the Young Witness Service is so vital, with volunteers working with children before, during and after the trial.

“In recent years the Justice Minister David Ford has made great strides in advancing the Young Witness Service in Northern Ireland, making it by far the most advanced service in the UK. But there is always more to do.

“One area I am particularly interested in is the training judges receive ahead of dealing with child witnesses and sensitive cases involving children. Currently, there is no formal requirement, with training and practices varying among judges and courthouses. I will be writing to the Lord Chief Justice and the Law Society with the aim to change this.”

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