Perspectives on Children’s Testimony

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But some experimental psychologists believed that the memories were instead likely to be false—created in therapy. The student subjects were told that the researchers had talked to their family members and learned about four different events from their childhoods.

The researchers asked if the now undergraduate students remembered each of these four events—introduced via short hints. The subjects were asked to write about each of the four events in a booklet and then were interviewed two separate times. The trick was that one of the events came from the researchers rather than the family and the family had actually assured the researchers that this event had not happened to the subject.

In the first such study, this researcher-introduced event was a story about being lost in a shopping mall and rescued by an older adult. For example, one group of researchers used a mock-advertising study, wherein subjects were asked to review fake advertisements for Disney vacations, to convince subjects that they had once met the character Bugs Bunny at Disneyland—an impossible false memory because Bugs is a Warner Brothers character Braun et al.

Another group of researchers photoshopped childhood photographs of their subjects into a hot air balloon picture and then asked the subjects to try to remember and describe their hot air balloon experience Wade et al. Other researchers gave subjects unmanipulated class photographs from their childhoods along with a fake story about a class prank, and thus enhanced the likelihood that subjects would falsely remember the prank Lindsay et al.

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Using a false feedback manipulation, we have been able to persuade subjects to falsely remember having a variety of childhood experiences. In these studies, subjects are told falsely that a powerful computer system has analyzed questionnaires that they completed previously and has concluded that they had a particular experience years earlier.

Subjects apparently believe what the computer says about them and adjust their memories to match this new information. A variety of different false memories have been implanted in this way. To conclude, eyewitness testimony is very powerful and convincing to jurors, even though it is not particularly reliable.


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Identification errors occur, and these errors can lead to people being falsely accused and even convicted. Likewise, eyewitness memory can be corrupted by leading questions, misinterpretations of events, conversations with co-witnesses, and their own expectations for what should have happened.

The experiences of child complainants of sexual abuse in the criminal justice system

People can even come to remember whole events that never occurred. The problems with memory in the legal system are real. But what can we do to start to fix them? A number of specific recommendations have already been made, and many of these are in the process of being implemented e. Some of these recommendations are aimed at specific legal procedures, including when and how witnesses should be interviewed, and how lineups should be constructed and conducted. Other recommendations call for appropriate education often in the form of expert witness testimony to be provided to jury members and others tasked with assessing eyewitness memory.

Eyewitness testimony can be of great value to the legal system, but decades of research now argues that this testimony is often given far more weight than its accuracy justifies. Share this module to:. Email Address. First Name. Last Name. Password Forgot your password? Remember me for two weeks.

Children's Testimony | Wiley Online Books

They were speaking mumbo jumbo. There were so many questions that you cannot possibly remember the details over two years. However, research and various inquiries here in New South Wales and in other jurisdictions indicate that a number of judges show a marked reluctance to intervene or simply do not intervene to assist or protect vulnerable witnesses during cross-examination.

Our adversary system has not encouraged judges to intervene in the conduct of the examination of witnesses unless objection is taken, or the advocate has plainly exceeded the bounds of proper questioning. Judges play an important role in protecting complainants from unnecessary, inappropriate and irrelevant questioning by or on behalf of an accused. It is a very moot point whether the presently accepted defence questioning styles and methods effectively test the efficacy of evidence. Children cannot understand how a judge will not believe them when they are telling the truth.

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Many children have unrealistic expectations of the judge, seeing the judge as some one who will right all the wrongs that have been committed by the accused. It is not surprising that explanations of how a judge arrives at a decision employing a standard of beyond a reasonable doubt is so hard for child witnesses to comprehend. They expect the judge to see the events from their perspective. Appropriate case management by judicial officers can assist greatly in ensuring that the various parties and professionals are prepared, that preliminary legal issues are resolved, and that the special arrangements for child witnesses are in place.

Where adjournments are requested, the likely effect on the child and the number of prior adjournments and delays need to be considered. In the evaluation of the child sexual assault specialist jurisdiction, the cases were listed on average 5. When children are prepared and expecting to attend court and testify, it is very stressful to have the matter adjourned, especially on several occasions as happens in some cases. They also expect to be caught out and to be punished if they lie.

He made me confused.


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  • His speech goes when he is really nervous, and he was struggling to talk. Book Description Publication Date: June 26, Child witnesses pose unique challenges to the legal system, and courtrooms are daunting and alien to children. Timely and truly international in scope, this volume focuses on the techniques and procedures used to accommodate child witnesses in legal systems - and on research investigating the effectiveness and implications of those techniques - around the world: England, Scotland, The Netherlands, Israel, South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and India.

    Featuring the work of renowned scholars from the international psycholegal community, the volume not only provides support for all countries seeking to broaden their approach to child psychology and law, but also promotes justice in those countries where child protection is virtually unknown.

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