U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Children's Testimony in Child Sexual Abuse Investigation

NCJ Number
Sex Offender Law Report Volume: 6 Issue: 2 Dated: February/March 2005 Pages: 17,27,29
John Fox
Date Published
March 2005
4 pages
This article reviews the history of a botched investigation of a series of child sexual abuse allegations in an area of northeast England (Cleveland) and the reforms that followed.
The allegations that led to social workers removing over 100 children from the care of their parents resulted from diagnoses of child sexual abuse by a single doctor and reinforcing, but flawed, investigative techniques by social workers, notably in interviewing the alleged child victims. By the time the court cases collapsed under suspect defenses that exposed the incorrect medical diagnoses and manipulative interviews of the children, some children had not seen their parents for many months. A subsequent public inquiry by Her Majesty's Government led to the publication of strict operating guidelines for investigative and court procedures that involve alleged child victims. The report, called "The Memorandum of Good Practice on Video Recorded Interviews With Child Witnesses for Criminal Proceedings" (1992), is intended to ensure fairness to the suspect and improve confidence in the testimony given by the child. The Memorandum states fundamental rules that must be followed if a videotaped interview with a child is to be presented as evidence in court. Further, in a court hearing, children can present evidential testimony via videotape and then be cross examined through a television link. The Memorandum was revised in 1999 and retitled, "Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings." This document is currently used as the primary tool for professionals in England and Wales charged with obtaining evidence from a child victim about suspected abuse. Under current protocol, a specially trained police officer and social worker jointly interview a child victim, following uniform procedures designed to facilitate reliable information from the child.