Crime Lab Connie keeps kid witnesses calm in court
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.
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