(127)  Child witnesses in child abuse cases

Controversy broke out following the collapse on 25 July 2001 of a trial of six men accused of child sex abuse.  The trial had been running for 15 days.  The two victims had been subjected to cross-examination for extended periods, one spending 25 hours in the witness box.  The trial judge, Lord MacLean, brought the trial to an end after the Crown moved to desert the case. Lord MacLean told the jury it would not be in the best interests of the second child to resume giving evidence after a doctor examined the boy and said that he could be psychologically damaged by continuing.  It appeared that the recommendations of a 1999 report on how children give evidence in trials had not been implemented.  The children’s mother has threatened to sue both the discharged accused and the Scottish Executive, while the accused are concerned that they have no way to establish their innocence of the charges against them.