New safe space for child victims of crime in Scotland

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child playing with tractorImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The centre will provide a welcoming space for children to give evidence and receive trauma support

A new centre designed to support child victims and witnesses of crime is to be opened in Scotland.

Children will be able to be interviewed in the child-friendly facility, away from police stations and courtrooms.

But they can also receive medical care and support to help them recover from trauma in an environment designed to look like a family home.

Locations are being scouted for the base following a £1.5m boost from the People's Postcode Lottery.

Project partner Children 1st said the centre would "end the nightmares of thousands of children".

The charity's chief executive Mary Glasgow said the centre would "transform" Scotland's systems of justice, health, care and protection.

She added: "We and our partners want to offer our heartfelt thanks to the players of People's Postcode Lottery. With their help, we will offer children and their families the support they need to recover, repair and move on with their lives."

Along with Children 1st, the project will have input from Victim Support Scotland, Children England and the University of Edinburgh.

Kate Wallace, of Victim Support Scotland, highlighted the "heartbreaking harm" that children experience through court processes and procedures.

The Scandinavian model

The design of the centre is based on the Scandinavian model of Barnahus - or "children's house" - which provides a welcoming and safe environment for children.

Iceland first opened one such centre in 1998 followed by Sweden, Norway, Greenland and most recently, Denmark in 2013.

Centres operate on the principle that the needs of children in criminal cases are totally different from adults in the same situation.

Image caption,
The aim of this Barnahus in Norway is to make the environment secure and welcoming

The Child's House for Healing in Scotland aims to reduce the number of times a child needs to talk about trauma they experienced in order to help speed up the recovery process.

Children will be able to give evidence, receive medical care, get support and take part in decisions about their protection.

Every year 12,600 children in Scotland require special support to give evidence in court.

In January a new law came into force in Scotland which spares under 18s from giving evidence during High Court trials.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the Scottish government was committed to bringing forward Scottish Barnahus standards for child victims

He said: "We continue to work hard to provide trauma-informed support to children and young people who are the victims of serious and traumatic crime but there is always more which can be done."