New Zealand Law Society - Child-friendly courthouse initiative welcomed

Child-friendly courthouse initiative welcomed

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An initiative by local judges and staff has created a child friendly space for children giving evidence in the Whangarei courthouse.

In the first six months of 2016, 24 vulnerable witnesses, mainly children, have given evidence from the room on Whangarei.

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"While it's common for children to give evidence via closed circuit TV rather than in a courtroom, Whangarei has gone one step further and created a relaxed, child-friendly environment to help ease the trauma of appearing in court," Justice Minister Amy Adams says.

The room was previously used for people to give evidence via video conferencing and was a standard meeting room, with a large table, and video conferencing equipment – the kind of room most adults have been in before, but foreign to children.  After taking the advice of a local expert on how to create a relaxing environment, colour, couches and cushions now signal that this is a place for children.

While every effort is been made to minimise waiting times, the old board games have been updated with an X-box and TV alongside toys and books courtesy of fundraising and donations from the local community and businesses. Judges and counsel visit the room to meet children in person before their appearance via CCTV.

"Justice is about people and this is a great example of putting the needs of the vulnerable first. It's particularly important that children can trust that the system will support them."

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