Yousaf rules out ‘one forensic interview’ approach to child witnesses in Scotland

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf appears to have ruled out a new approach to child witnesses that would prevent them from having to give evidence more than once, The Herald reports.

The Scottish government is considering an approach inspired by the “Barnahus” (Children’s House) model in Norway, where under-16s give evidence outwith the courtroom in a single interview with a specially-trained professional.

The “one forensic interview” typically takes place inside the child’s house with other parties watch via a video link and can feed questions to the interviewer through an earpiece.

Lord Carloway is among those who have advocated adopting a similar scheme in Scotland, and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) looked favourably upon the Barnahus model in a report published last year.

However, Mr Yousaf wrote in a letter seen by the newspaper: “While the ‘one forensic interview’ approach, which is in place in many Barnahus models across Europe, would not be feasible in the Scottish adversarial system at this time, consideration can be given to how the existing ways evidence is pre-recorded can be incorporated as part of the adaptation of the concept for Scotland.”

The charity Children 1st has urged the government not to “rule out anything at this stage”.

A spokesperson for the Scottish government said: “Barnahus operates differently in each of the countries using it and does not always feature a single forensic interview. We will look closely at how elements of the approach would work in the context of Scotland’s adversarial legal system, including the requirement for cross-examination.”