An Evaluation of English Crown Courts with and without Special Measures Implemented in Section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act

Change log
Henderson, Hayden 

This series of studies was the first to evaluate the effects of the Section 28 pilot study on the treatment of vulnerable child witnesses in English Crown Courts. Section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act implemented mandatory Ground Rules Hearings, during which the judge, lawyers, and intermediary (if applicable) discussed appropriate accommodations to be made for child witnesses, following which the cross-examination could be pre-recorded. Analyses examined 43 cases that implemented the special measures (‘Section 28’ cases) and 44 cases that did not implement the special measures (‘Non-Section 28’ cases) that took place between 2012 and 2016. Analyses revealed that children in the Section 28 cases experienced less systemic delay than their counterparts. In addition, the trial preparation in the Section 28 cases was more thorough and this was associated with less risky questioning in the cross-examinations. However, younger children experienced longer delays and had fewer accommodations made for them than older children, regardless of condition. Additional analyses demonstrated that the forensic interviews replaced the evidence-in-chief in most cases almost entirely, with prosecutors asking few substantive questions. In the Section 28 cases, defense lawyers used fewer suggestive questions and asked less complex questions than Non-Section 28 defense lawyers. However, both types of lawyers still predominantly asked option-posing questions. Regardless of condition, defense lawyers asked fewer suggestive questions than their counterparts in other common-law countries and they asked younger children less complex questions. Results indicate that, although the Section 28 pilot study has not fixed all of the existing problems, it has significantly reduced systemic delay and improved the treatment of child witnesses in Crown Courts and thus should be rolled out nationally. As well, regardless of condition, English lawyers and judges seem receptive to recent special measures and appear to be effectively implementing them.

Lamb, Michael
children, cross-examination, Section 28, special measures, intermediary, questioning
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
Cambridge International Trust