Two-year-old is youngest to give evidence in criminal trial

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Oct 11, 2017
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Specialists said evidence from young children could be reliable and compelling

Nick Ansell/PA

A two-year-old girl is believed to have become the youngest person to give evidence in a UK criminal case, leading to a man being jailed for ten years for sexual abuse.

The case is being hailed as sending out a message that sexual offenders will not escape justice by abusing very young children who they believe will be unable to testify against them.

The girl’s interview was recorded by a specialist court team led by the police and assisted by specialists who help vulnerable witnesses give evidence at trial. The girl was interviewed by a child abuse police officer, assisted by a Ministry of Justice-registered intermediary. The intermediary advised the police about the best way to question the two-year-old, who was initially reluctant to engage with unfamiliar adults and clung to her parents.

The girl began to respond to simple “who”, “what” and “where” questions, naming the suspect and describing what had happened, with the help of a paper figure on which she could point to parts of the body. The intermediary involved said that interviewing such young children was “challenging” but they could give “reliable and compelling evidence”.

Children’s charities predict that the numbers of very young witnesses will increase. Figures obtained by the NSPCC and seen by The Times show that the number of sex offences against children younger than two recorded by police forces in England and Wales was 752 in 2015-16, the latest year for which figures were available.

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