Prosecutors’ Perceptions on Improving Child Witness Interviews About Abuse
Child sexual abuse cases are often not prosecuted because of poor evidential quality of the child’s investigative interview, the central plank of evidence in these cases. There has been limited research on child testimony from a prosecution (as opposed to developmental memory) focus and most of this prosecution work has been qualitative in nature, focusing on eliciting prosecutors’ perspectives of CSA interviews via surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. Overall, the perspectives of prosecutors have received little airplay in the literature, yet they provide an important foundation for improving interview process and justice outcomes. This chapter provides a review of the prior research regarding the persuasiveness and usefulness of child witness interviews as evidence. Four conclusions are drawn which have implications for interviewer trainers and policy makers. First, prosecutors support the system of electronically recording child witness interviews over the traditional system which involved the taking of written statements. Second, prosecutors perceive that interviewers need to become better attuned to the evidential details required for successful prosecution of CSA cases. Interviewers tend to overestimate the amount of contextual and time-related information that is required. Third, interviewers need to prioritise the elicitation of a cohesive narrative account of the offending from the witness perspective as opposed to using mainly short-answer questions. Finally, while prosecutors support electronic recording of child witness statements as evidence-in-chief at the trial, they believe there needs to be scope to supplement these interviews with additional live witness evidence. This chapter elaborates on these conclusions and describes the research that has underpinned them.
KeywordsInvestigative interviewing Child witness Child sexual assault Child testimony Child abuse prosecution Evidence
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