Three-year-old becomes youngest trial witness
Jonathan Brown, The Independent, Saturday 12 November 2011
A three-year-old boy was given a packet of crisps by a judge after making legal history by becoming what is believed to be the youngest child to give evidence in a British court case. The toddler, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was led gently through a series of questions about an alleged attack during the informal hearing. Answering via video link from an adjoining room at Bradford Crown Court, the boy told Judge Jonathan Rose that he liked Transformers and that his favourite flavour of crisps was salt and vinegar.
The court heard that the boy from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, then aged two, suffered life-threatening injuries and had to undergo surgery on his bowel after Daniel Joyce, 29, allegedly stamped on his stomach. The judge and both barristers removed their wigs and gowns in accordance with Ministry of Justice guidelines on questioning young witnesses. Michelle Colborne, for the defence, handed the boy cardboard cut-outs representing people and locations involved in the case as she reconstructed events.
The child was accompanied by a court usher and a female intermediary and was allowed to draw during the short cross-examination. He had been warned that he had to tell the truth before giving his evidence. At one point the judge asked him: “If Michelle asks you just three questions should we stop for a bag of salt and vinegar crisps?” He replied: “Yeah.” The boy was also questioned by Caroline Wigin, for the prosecution. She asked: “How did Danny hurt your tummy?” “He stamped on me,” the boy replied. “Did he touch you anywhere else apart from your tummy?” asked Ms Wigin. “Yeah,” said the boy. “Where was that?” she asked. “He put his hand on my mouth,” said the child who is also alleged to have suffered injuries to the face and ear. “Do you know which room you were in?” asked Ms Wigin. “Yeah … in my bedroom,” said the boy. The prosecutor said the boy had appeared “his normal chatty self” according to a witness the night before the alleged attack. Mr Joyce raised the alarm the following day when the boy appeared pale and floppy.
A few weeks later the boy was asked what had happened and he said “Danny” had stamped on his stomach, it was claimed. Mr Joyce denies GBH with intent and an alternative allegation of causing grievous bodily harm. The trial continues.