CA supports the children and their parents, carers or guardians who have to go to court. Currently the court system is designed and set up for adults, and the professionals involved are used to dealing with adult witnesses. Therefore the court process can be a frightening, alienating and traumatic experience for the child. The continued reliance on an adversarial court system means that those few children who are asked to give evidence within a court are placed under enormous pressure, both real and perceived when asked to make a formal statement in the court setting. We provide a professional accompaniment service to all child victims who have to serve as witnesses in criminal trials, irrespective of the crime committed.
Our Court Accompaniment Service has three strands to it:
Pre-trial preparation is the first strand of our court support service. Going to court can be a very stressful time for a child and their families. In our experience, some of these anxieties can be relieved through a visit to the court house. Not knowing what to expect can cause a lot of anxiety. Our pre-trial meeting is very beneficial to our clients as it includes a visit to the courthouse where their trial will be held. A tour around the victim support area, including the video link room where the child will give their evidence and a visit to an empty courtroom, is done at this stage. All of this allows families to put a frame around their upcoming trial. Clients can also meet their accompaniment officer, giving the young person space to ask questions and have more control over their experience.
Trial accompaniment is the second strand of our court support service. The child and their support network are accompanied throughout the trial. We provide emotional and practical support as well as explaining legal terminology and processes to them; staying with and facilitating them in what they may need for the duration of the trial.
We also provide post- trial support where needed. This differs from family to family as some have waited a considerable length of time to come to court. When the legal process is over some families may wish to close the door on this episode of their life. Sometimes we find that the court process can bring up some emotional trauma for clients as it may be the first time they have spoken about their experience. We would make sure they are linked in to appropriate services that can provide ongoing support. We would stay linked in with all relevant professionals, such as, An Garda Sióchána, social workers, psychologists and therapists. We also provide accompaniment to the sentencing of trials and may also support a victim in making their Victim Impact Statement, when appropriate.
How to avail of our service?
If you would like to contact CASS please do so by the following:
Phone: 01-8308529 or 087 993 7392
C.A.S.S. is kindly supported by the Commission for Support of the Victims of Crime
Please visit Victims Charter