Children as Witnesses in Criminal Proceedings

A Witness

One of the most common ways to adduce evidence is through a witness.  Who can be a witness and how is the procedure different if the witness is a child? 

Competence and Compellability

A witness is competent if he or she as a matter of law be called to give evidence.   A witness is compellable if he or she is competent as a matter of law, he or she can then be compelled by the court to give evidence. The general common law rule states that all persons are competent and all competent persons are compellable. 

Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999

Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 section 53 (1) clearly states that at every stage in criminal proceedings all persons are (whatever their age) competent to give evidence.  Nevertheless children under the age of fourteen are not allowed to give sworn evidence. On the contrary it is argued that children of any age can give evidence as competency depends on their understanding not their age.

Evidence under Oath

Children under the age of fourteen do not have to take the oath. Children who are above the age of fourteen, the court will decide whether the child should take the oath. This depends on whether the child understands the seriousness of the event and the absolute necessity to tell the truth.

Special Measures

 Section 16 (1) (a) and 21 (1) (3) of Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 states that a child witness is eligible for special measures as he or she is under the age of seventeen. Hence the court must provide special measures. The special measures are to provide video-recorded interview to stand as evidence-in-chief and to provide evidence that is not given by video recording by means of live link

Unlock this article now!


For more information on:

  • Special Protection
  • Procedure