Crime Lab Con­nie keeps kid wit­nesses calm in court

Sunday Mirror - - PUZZLES - BY JIllY Beat­tIe

Asick Labrador who was un­able to train as an as­sis­tance dog is tak­ing the lead in a whole new field – help­ing chil­dren giv­ing ev­i­dence in court.

Three-year-old Con­nie has be­come the first dog in the coun­try to work for the NSPCC’s Young Wit­ness Ser­vice.

She has been trained to help calm down young­sters fac­ing the stress of a trau­matic court ap­pear­ance, pro­vid­ing a sooth­ing pres­ence in the wit­ness box.

Her han­dler, who can­not be named for se­cu­rity rea­sons, ex­plained: “These chil­dren face a very dif­fi­cult time in court – it can be a scary place for many rea­sons.

“She will sit with the chil­dren, put her head on their knee, let them stroke and cud­dle her – let them do what they need to feel safe in these alien sur­round­ings.

“She’s full of en­ergy but the mo­ment she steps into court she changes en­tirely.”

The NSPCC’s Young Wit­ness Ser­vice works with young­sters giv­ing ev­i­dence in all types of crime in any court. The char­ity said: “Giv­ing ev­i­dence is dis­tress­ing for any­one. But for chil­dren who’ve been through some­thing as hor­rific as sex­ual abuse, it’s even harder. Go­ing to court can add to their trauma.”

Con­nie was train­ing as an as­sis­tance dog when she was found to have hip dys­pla­sia – an im­prop­erly formed joint.

So her new role, which in­volves less phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, is per­fect for her.

In the 18 months since, she has helped chil­dren at two courts in North­ern Ire­land and also aids young­sters with ADHD and autism.

JUDGE

Her han­dler added: “She’s used for more than the court ap­pear­ances, she will be there for in­ter­views and much more.

“Con­nie loves the chil­dren and can­not judge them – she’s the per­fect friend.

“She’s helped adults too. One lady was trem­bling and Con­nie walked over and put her head in her lap. It was lovely.”

To do­nate to the NSPCC and the Mir­ror’s Christ­mas cam­paign, see how above right.

Pro­teC­tIVe Con­nie with char­ity worker

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