Young witnesses in criminal cases

Measuring Up?

This project, jointly funded by the Nuffield Foundation and the NSPCC, assessed whether changes to the legislative framework have been successful in improving the experience of young witnesses in court.

The researchers used a sample of 182 young witnesses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, aged between five and 19, who were interviewed, along with most of their parents, between May 2007 and October 2008. The resulting report, Measuring up? concluded that the reality faced by young witnesses in court fell short of the standards set out in government policies and made 42 recommendations for improvement.

In response to the recommendations, the Ministry of Justice drew up an Action Plan. Since then, there has been a change of government and the announcement of dramatic budget cuts. Some favourable early responses to the recommendations have been qualified or halted and the Coalition Government’s position in respect of witness policy and its response to some Measuring up? proposals is not yet known.

young witnesses in criminal proceedings


The number of young witnesses is increasing dramatically.

2011 progress report

In June 2011, the Nuffield Foundation and NSPCC published a follow up report which identifies the progress that has been made in the last two years and highlights where further action is required. The report is based on discussions at two seminars hosted by the Nuffield Foundation and a review of current criminal justice business plans and ‘Big Society’ policy pronouncements.

Despite some improvements to policy and practice for young witnesses in criminal proceedings, the progress report concluded there remain areas in which the state is failing in its commitment to enable them to give their best evidence. Full findings are detailed in the report: Young witnesses in criminal proceedings: A progress report on Measuring up?

Project details



Barbara Esam, Joyce Plotnikoff and Richard Woolfson, NSPCC

Funding programme

Children and Families

Grant amounts and duration

May 2007 - October 2008

January 2010 - September 2010



June 2011

Download Young witnesses in criminal proceedings: A progress report on Measuring up? (2009) by Joyce Plotnikoff and Richard Woolfson, Nuffield Foundation, June 2011 (PDF)

July 2009

Measuring up? Evaluating implementation of Government commitments to young witnesses in criminal proceedings, Joyce Plotnikoff and Richard Woolfson, NSPCC July 2009

Download Executive Summary (PDF)

Download full report (PDF)

Good practice guidance for law practitioners and others who work with young witnesses both before and during trial.

Good practice guidance in managing young witness cases and questioning children (PDF)

CD-ROM: A disk of recordings made by young witnesses in the study can be requested for training purposes from the NSPCC publications team.