An evaluation of the pilot service, which has been in operation at Londonderry Courthouse since January 2008, found that the remote nature of the live link reduces fear and stress in young witnesses which in turn leads to more young witnesses being able to provide their best evidence and more cases being completed.
The recommendations arising from the evaluation included making the facility in Londonderry Courthouse permanent and extending the use of remote live link to all courts throughout Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the launch of the evaluation report, Janique Burden, manager of the NSPCC’s Young Witness Service, said that the facility is “vital” for vulnerable young people:
“The role of the Young Witness Service (YWS) is to provide support and information to young prosecution witnesses (under 18) in criminal cases. The concept of young witnesses giving evidence via a TV live link was introduced in recognition of the fact that giving evidence in open court can be a traumatic experience for a young person, particularly when the defendant is a relative or family friend. It is vital that we work to minimise their stress.
“While in some courts young witnesses currently give evidence in a separate room in the courthouse through a court TV link, there is an issue around the fact that court buildings are simply not child friendly, and that young witnesses could encounter the defendant and his or her family and friends in the court buildings.
“The live link facility allows the young witness to communicate with the court from another building away from the courthouse, where they can receive the necessary support and are enabled to give their best evidence.
“The pilot sought to measure the live link’s effectiveness for the young people, but also to ensure it was fit for purpose for those trying and defending cases.”
 The NSPCC YWS remote live link to Londonderry (Bishop Street) Courthouse is a pilot scheme that has been in operation since January 2008. The pilot, which was funded and operated by NSPCC, was initially for three years. To date the funding and operation has continued to be supported by the Court Service.