Page last updated at 01:18 GMT, Friday, 3 July 2009 02:18 UK

Child witnesses 'wait too long'

Baby P
A trial related to the Baby P death highlighted this issue

Young witnesses in sex abuse or violence cases are being forced to wait more than a year to give evidence in England and Wales, a report has said.

Many child witnesses feel intimidated in the run up to trials, research by children's charity the NSPCC suggests.

The issue gained prominence when a four-year-old girl gave evidence against one of the men found responsible for Baby P's death.

These cases should be fast tracked but typically take longer to come to court.

Researchers spoke to 182 child witnesses, the overwhelming majority giving evidence against defendants accused of sexual abuse or violence.

They found almost half had seen the defendants involved when entering or leaving court, while some were forced to share a waiting room with the people accused of assaulting them.

The NSPCC is calling on the government to enforce the policy of fast tracking child witness cases and for more use of video cross examination.

In May, the 32-year-old boyfriend of Baby Peter's mother was convicted of raping a girl when she was aged two.

Seventeen-month-old Baby Peter died in August 2007 having suffered more than 50 injuries.

The girl, now aged four, became the youngest child to give evidence at the Old Bailey, through a video link.



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