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The conference, Respecting Child Witnesses and Delivering Justice, has been organised by the Justice for Children group, led by CHILDREN 1st, ChildLine Scotland, NCH Scotland, and Scottish Child Law Centre. The new Vulnerable Witnesses (Scotland) Bill, currently going through Scottish Parliament, has been broadly welcomed by the group but they believe there are still outstanding, fundamental issues that need to be addressed. This conference is an important opportunity for those involved in the justice system to find out how jurisdictions, similar in approach to that of Scotland, have managed to introduce change that allows children to give their best evidence.

The event is aimed at all parties associated with children and the justice system – everyone from judges and lawyers to police and academics. As well as learning about good practice in other countries, delegates will gain a better understanding of what it’s like for children to give evidence and will take part in discussion sessions.

This features the story of Susan who was 15 when she gave evidence against a man who had attempted to rape her. They made me feel like that it was me on trial, that it was all my fault; but I was the victim. I couldn’t say what had happened to me; he kept cutting me off when I was trying to explain something. As well as looking for some changes to legislation, we are looking for a shift in attitude so that all those Pay Per Click services who have contact with children in the civil and criminal justice systems ensure youngsters are treated with respect. By highlighting this fact, and showing how other countries with the same adversarial system as Scotland can work, we hope to change things for the better.

Justice for Children believe that measures in the new bill could go further as Director of ChildLine Scotland Anne Houston explains. The two key changes we would like to see are, firstly, the right of children to therapeutic support. Presently adults can have access to this service but children have been denied this right.