All witnesses regardless of age are presumed competent and it is therefore not the case that just because your client is a minor, that they lack capacity to give instructions. If they can understand you and make decisions based on the advice given, then you are able to act for them.
However, it is important to be certain that the child is actively participating in the process and not simply agreeing with what you say. It is often a good idea to ask the child to repeat what they understand by the advice you have given them.
Consider also if there is a support worker involved. Will the child give permission for correspondence that you send to them to also be sent to the case worker?
Where the child is in foster care, it is not automatically the case that the foster carers must be involved in the legal process. Again, you will need to take clear instructions from the client and seek their consent to provide information to the foster carer. It is often the case that the child does not want the foster carer to know the full details of their exploitation as they feel it may impact on their place within the household. They may just want to be a member of the family and not a ‘victim’.
In a hearing, there is a duty to accommodate a vulnerable person of need and that would include a child.
Consider the wording of the equal treatment bench book that has specific guidance for dealing with children and vulnerable witnesses.
If the case is in open court or tribunal, consider what special measures need to be in place such as video link, screens, etc. Despite the duties imposed on the judiciary, it may be necessary to keep reiterating that the witness is a child. For example, avoiding the use of compound questions and putting questions in the simplest form possible.
Where the trafficker is representing themselves, consider whether cross-examination of the child by the trafficker could amount to re-traumatisation. This would be a breach of Article 11 of the Directive. It may be possible for a list of questions to be agreed by the Respondent and put to the child witness by the Judge. You should consider adjourning and seek additional guidance if the judge is reluctant to do this.