Cornwall

Therapy dogs help witnesses at Truro Crown Court

Judge Simon Carr
Image caption Judge Simon Carr, with one-year-old miniature schnauzer Aggie, is supportive of the scheme at Truro Crown Court

Dogs are being used to calm down witnesses before they give evidence in court.

The project at Truro Crown Court in Cornwall sees therapy dogs and their handlers visit vulnerable or young witnesses.

One family judge said the effects have been "miraculous".

This is the first time dogs have been used in this way in a Crown court although they been used previously at Chelmsford Family Court in Essex.

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Three dogs have been visiting the court three mornings a week, comforting witnesses before they give evidence.

Judge Simon Carr said: "The experience of what we've done so far is that it has made it much easier for them to give evidence, they are much more relaxed, much more centred, and much less stressed.

"Anything that achieves that has got to be an advantage.

"I've asked if I can be on the cycle each day so I can have a bit of stress relief along with everybody else."

Image caption Lola, Bertie and Aggie are visiting Truro Crown Court three mornings a week

Family Judge Nick Vincent says he has already seen examples of when a therapy dog has helped, including a 14-year-old boy giving sexual allegations evidence.

Judge Vincent said: "He was in quite an upset state and I had some doubt about whether he would be able to tell his story, but the introduction of a therapy dog into the room with him before he told his story had a miraculous effect.

"He calmed down immediately and was able to give a very full account of what he said had happened to him."

The dogs are Aggie, a one-year-old miniature schnauzer; Lola, a seven-year-old retriever Labrador cross, and Bertie, a one-year-old retriever.

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