Local NSPCC volunteer details her experiences of supporting children giving evidence in court  | Latest Newry News, Newry Sport and Newry Business for Newry City

Local NSPCC volunteer details her experiences of supporting children giving evidence in court 

A Co Down woman has told a major conference in Belfast about her volunteering experiences helping support young people giving evidence in court.

Judith Smyth, from Newcastle, has been volunteering with the NSPCC’s Young Witness Service, for almost 16 years.



She addressed the charity’s recent Young Witness Service conference in Belfast which was attended by senior policy makers and representatives from the criminal justice system including Sir John Gillen. 

The conference, Safeguarding Young Witnesses in the Criminal Justice System, comes as the NSPCC’s innovative Young Witness Service in Northern Ireland reaches its 20th anniversary.

The Young Witness Service is unique to Northern Ireland, and it provides support and assistance to children and young people aged under 18 who have to attend court as witnesses.

Specially-trained NSPCC Northern Ireland staff and volunteers provide information and advice to children – as well as their family, friends and supporters – before, during and after the trial to help minimise the trauma of appearing in court and giving evidence. 



Addressing delegates on the day, Judith said, “For a young witness, the wait for court may have been a lengthy and fearful wait.

“Many of our young witnesses have already had traumatic experiences. Now, these bad experiences are to surface again. And all in a strange and frightening environment. Our role is to give them the best support we can and deliver a caring and professional service.

“Some young witnesses appear to be calm. Others arrive visibly distressed. Some may appear totally indifferent. In common though – they all have inner fears. I have heard young witnesses say they just want to get the day, or days, over, put it all behind them, move on.

She continued, “Days at court can be long, intensive and wearing. If and when time comes to give evidence the young witnesses is now faced with their greatest fear – that of giving evidence.”



She explained how when the time came for the young witness to give evidence, it would be just the two of them alone in a room with a video-link. “I must be a strong, quiet presence and remain so even when hearing harrowing evidence. This highly-charged time in the video-link room can be sharp, splintering and painful.

“When that ordeal is finally over the young witness can sometimes stay with us waiting to hear a judgement. This may bring relief, or, bring unwelcome news. Emotions can be mixed and unpredictable.

“Finally, the case has ended. We say goodbye. I mourn the ordeals and traumas that the young witness had to face but marvel at their bravery and strength. It is truly a privilege to support these young people,” Judith added.



If you are interested in volunteering for the Young Witness Service contact Billy Eagleson on 028 9448 7568 or email billy.eagleson@nspcc.org.uk.

For information go to: www.nspcc.org.uk



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