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Legal aspects of interviewing child witnesses

SARATH JAYAMANNE,
DEPUTY SOLICITOR GENERAL – ATTORNEY GENERALS’ DEPARTMENT

‘’Never losing sight of the child Place the child at the centre of what we do. listening to the child and never losing sight of the child’’ -Lord Laming in the Review into the death of Victoria Climbe -2003 . That means understanding the perspective of the child.

US 3.INTRODUCTION All investigators should be provided proper training in child development. and investigative methods. UK 2. interview techniques. FOCUS 1. court testimony. SRI LANKA? . evidence gathering.

“ a person under the age of 18 years ” United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child Children Acts 1989 and 2004 UK. ..Definition of child "Child".

Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting. They may be abused by an adult or adults.“ "Working Together to Safeguard Children A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children 2006" in UK . or another child or children.Definition of Child Abuse – "Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment of a child. or by failing to act to prevent harm. more rarely. by those known to them or. by a stranger.

Attach any documentation.Disclosure information: Behavior/environment: What behavioral characteristics are unusual? Where does the child go to school? Family problems:. Guardian information: . . date of birth.. Medical history.Alleged perpetrator: List name. This allows preparation of pertinent questions specific to the incident and the child being interviewed.When arriving at the scene. Further child protection. • Follow-up to the Child Abuse History Form • Follow-up Investigation • The Interview • Case Review-Review all of the materials and information available regarding the alleged incident. the front line officer should have a copy of the child abuse history form which should provide. Home environment. Photograph all marks bruises on the child. Child information: name and date of birth. address.Evidence: List all evidence gathered documenting abuse.UK • Child Abuse History Form.

. games and other distractions should be kept to a minimum. The room should be equipped with a video and audio system. The video cameras should be positioned on the comer of a wall near the ceiling where they will cause no distractions or discomfort for the child and the microphones should not be conspicuous in the room. Toys.The Interview Room The interview room should be one that is comfortable for the child. yet conducive to a proper interview.

or to prevent the child from being removed from somewhere the child is safe e. .Protection Orders in UK Section 46 of the Children Act 1989 IN UK permits any police constable. to remove the child to a place of safety. who has reasonable cause to believe that a child is at risk of significant harm.g. a hospital.

.US • Video/Audiotaping All interviews should be videotaped and/or audio taped. This is being done in at least twenty-seven states and is also being utilized in many countries outside the United States including Canada. Holland and Great Britain. The effective use of video or audio taping of child interviews can reduce the number of times a child is interviewed.

No matter how many interviews the practitioner has conducted or participated in.• Conducting the Interview The possibly most important step in the investigation is the interview of the child. There is no such thing as an easy interview. The entire basis for proceeding with prosecution of an allegation of child abuse often hinges on this interview. especially when dealing with a child abuse victim. . each interview of a child presents a unique and sensitive setting.

Rapport Building: In the Interview Room Introducing the Purpose of the Interview The Interviewing Method and Technique The Open Questioning Phase OpenQuestions cannot be answered by a "yes" or "no" and must never cause the child to paraphrase and parrot the information from the question back to the interviewer in the form of a yes/no answer. .

and. . „can you tell me about that?‟) questions.g..‟ (e. 71% of responses did not address all the issues raised.g.. questions beginning in this way were more likely to be misunderstood or yield „yes/no‟ answers. „did he have his hands inside or outside your clothes?‟). ● multi-part questions (e.Inappropriate questioning techniques ● forced choice questions (e.g. ● „can you. 74% of children respond simply with one or other choice rather than providing their own answer. when two or more questions were embedded in a single enquiry. „did he ask you to go upstairs with him and did you then go in the bedroom?‟).

It provides the opportunity for the interviewer to: ● summarise what the child has said. . and. ● provide a contact name and telephone number. ● answer any questions from the child. ● report the end-time of the interview.Closure of the interview The closure stage of the interview should attempt to leave the child in a positive state of mind. ● thank the child for their time and effort.

pace and number of interviews The idea that interviews should never last more than one hour may explain complaints about the pace of some interviews: children in 43% of the interviews observed by Davies et al. (1995) in UK were judged to have been rushed into the questioning phase. .Duration.

. potentially traumatic experience for the child.Appearance at court The court appearance itself may be a new. rather than the satisfactory closure of the investigation In this section we consider: ● the long-term effects of court appearance. ● preparation of child witnesses for court. and.

. • The tape can be used as a therapeutic tool. • The tape can be used to ally children's fears of disbelief by parental figures and to confront disbelief or denial when it actually exists.Advantages of Video/Audio Taping • Properly conducted taped interviews generally reduce the number of times the child has to be interviewed. • The tape can be used to confront the accused. • The tape can be a deterrent to retractions. • The recording preserves the integrity of the interview and provides an accurate record of the interview. • The tape can assist the child in preparing for his or her court appearance.

and now United States state and local agencies are utilizing the step-wise interview. . Germany. The United Kingdom. Tapes aid and support the prosecution of criminal cases of child sexual assault or juvenile court actions to protect dependent children.step-wise interview. several other counties. The step-wise interview minimizes the trauma of an interview as well as minimize the number of interviews.

This is if the child is inconsistent from one tape to the next.Disadvantages of video recording: 1.Video/audiotaping a child in an interview setting violates the child's rights . 3.Video/audiotaping a child is traumatizing to the child.2. .The taped interview can be used to impeach the alleged victim.

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