Improving the reliability of child witness testimony in court: The importance of focusing on questioning techniques

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Powell, Martine B
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2005
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Considerable discussion during recent years has focused on ways to increase the reliability of child witness evidence, and reduce the negative impact of the courtroom environment on children's credibility and their psychological well-being. A large proportion of this discussion has focused on removing child witnesses from the courtroom and developing alternative arrangements by which children can give evidence (e.g., videotaped statements used as evidence-in-chief, closed-circuit television). There is no doubt that these arrangements have played a major role in reducing children's feelings of uncertainty and intimidation, and they have increased the ability of children to tell their stories and answer questions reliably (Cashmore 2002; Eastwood & Patton 2002). However, there are many other factors, apart from the physical environment in which a child's evidence is elicited, that impact on the quality and accuracy of a child witness's evidence. Considerable discussion during recent years has focused on ways to increase the reliability of child witness evidence, and reduce the negative impact of the courtroom environment on children's credibility and their psychological well-being. A large proportion of this discussion has focused on removing child witnesses from the courtroom and developing alternative arrangements by which children can give evidence (e.g., videotaped statements used as evidence-in-chief, closed-circuit television). There is no doubt that these arrangements have played a major role in reducing children's feelings of uncertainty and intimidation, and they have increased the ability of children to tell their stories and answer questions reliably (Cashmore 2002; Eastwood & Patton 2002). However, there are many other factors, apart from the physical environment in which a child's evidence is elicited, that impact on the quality and accuracy of a child witness's evidence.

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Current Issues in Criminal Justice

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17

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1

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© 2005, Published by The Institute of Criminology, University of Sydney. The attached file is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.

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Criminology

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Powell, MB, Improving the reliability of child witness testimony in court: The importance of focusing on questioning techniques, Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 2005, 17 (1), pp. 137-143

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