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Admissibility and Sufficiency of Evidence in Child Abuse Prosecutions

NCJ Number
Gwynn Davis; Laura Hoyano; Caroline Keenan; Lee Maitland; Rod Morgan
Date Published
4 pages
Based on a sample of 94 child abuse cases from two police force areas in England, this study examined how evidence was gathered, presented, and evaluated at each stage of the criminal justice process.
The sample of cases was obtained from child protective services (CPS) and child protection units in September and October 1996. The initial videotaped interview, with a child alleging abuse served purposes that were sometimes difficult to reconcile and that placed unrealistic demands on interviewers. Police officers received little training or guidance in legal principles underlying the various protocols they were asked to follow when investigating child abuse cases. There was a belief among police officers and CPS lawyers that it was very difficult to secure a conviction in cases where the sole evidence was the child's unclear account of the alleged abuse, and the decision to prosecute was influenced by this belief. Cases where the child gave a clear and consistent account were viewed more positively. While recent reforms introducing special procedures for the delivery of children's testimony appeared to be working fairly well in the police force areas, some technical problems remained. Also, the relatively few cases in which children were subjected to unfair or intimidating cross-examination appeared to be significant. Innovative approaches adopted by other countries to receive children's testimony are noted. 2 references and 1 table