Final Report of the Vulnerable Witnesses and Children Working Group

The final report of the Vulnerable Witnesses and Children Working Group (VWCWG) has been published and may be accessed here together with its annexes.

Key recommendations are:

  • that there will be two new Practice Directions (to be known as PD 3D and PD 3C) to the Family Procedure Rules 2010 (FPR 2010) to stand alongside the new rule previously recommended - one PD will replaces the 2010 Guidelines for judges seeing children and the another will makes provision for the identification of vulnerable and intimidated witnesses and the arrangements which will need to be put in place
  • that there should be an increase in public access to the family courts so that members of the public, including children and young people, can see what is happening
  • that in respect of the evidence of children and young people, it is the view of the VWCWG that the family courts have fallen behind the criminal courts in its approach to their evidence and that modernisation and reform must include the direct evidence of children and support for the evidence of children to be heard at the youngest age appropriate for each child

It is the aim of the VWCWG that the FPR 2010 rule change will be in place when the FPR Committee can consider such changes later in the spring of 2015. In conjunction with this further work will be carried out to produce the Practice Directions with reference to the Criminal Procedure Rules. The aim is ensure that there is consistency of approach in the criminal and family jurisdiction.

Regarding the evidence of children and young people, further work will need to be carried out by the VWCWG on modernising the way in which the evidence of children and young people is gathered and put before the family courts.

For details of the VWCWG interim report see:

Supporting rules: the interim report of the Children and Vulnerable Witnesses Working Group

Geraldine Morris is a solicitor and Head of LexisPSL Family.

Twitter: @GeraldineMorris

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