Should Children's Testimony Be Given More Trust? Essay

Should Children's Testimony Be Given More Trust? Essay

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Reliability of a Child Witness
1. Introduction
Over the years, the number of cases requiring a child’s testimony in court proceedings has increased (Hill, 2011a; 2011b). This is partly due to the increasing number of sexual crime or abuse cases involving a child as a victim or as a witness (Crawford, 2009, Harker et al., 2013).
When a child is considered to hold information vital to a court’s case, the child may be called as a witness to give evidence to the court (Ministry of Justice, 2011). The evidence given by a child in a court proceeding is then known as a child’s testimony (Oxfordreference.com, 2013).
The reliability of a child’s testimony in court is always questioned when the witness is considered too young, having yet to fully develop their cognitive skills such retrieving their memory (Lepore, 1991). In 2011, The Guardian has reported that a 6-year-old child has been refused to give testimony in court. The court was of the belief that by allowing the child to testify, it would simply defeat the purpose as his testimony would eventually be discredited and found unreliable (Hill, 2011a). In contrast, academic research suggests that witnesses above the pre-school age of 5-year-old are more reliable as they are assumed to have further developed a reasonably sufficient language skills, memory and understanding of things. It does not follow, nonetheless, that a 6-year-old child’s testimony should be treated as more reliable than the one provided by a 5-year-old child as a matter of principle. This paper suggests that while the attitude of the judges is not entirely baseless, there is a need though to revisit this attitude for reliability is always a question of degree. The degree of reliability is determined by various eleme...


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...fronted with some external factors. What needs to be realised is that different children develop their language skills and memory at different pace and stage. The only concern remains as to the degree of reliability. On this issue of reliability, the focus should not be on the children’s capability but the techniques used in court that should be questioned. There are many ways to obtain or acquire essential key information be it for children or adults. All this boils down to the skills of the counsels. If the child seems incapable of delivering the answer as expected, the counsel/interviewer should try to find his way around by getting his questions rephrased or restructured. Children may not be able to provide the complete account of events, however, this should not be taken as suggesting that what they have told is not accurate and has no evidential value at all.

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