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Psycholegal Issues in Child Victims' Interaction With the Legal System

NCJ Number
Victimology Volume: 5 Issue: 2-4 Dated: (1980) Pages: 274-284
G B Melton
Date Published
11 pages
Legal procedures may exacerbate the victimization of child victims. Procedural reforms are thus needed, as is psychological research to provide data on ways of making the legal system more humane and effective in its response to child victims.
The defendant's rights to confrontation and cross-examination and to a public trial and the public's right of access to trials may result in the child victim's exposure to prolonged stress, embarrassment, and recollection of the experience of abuse. The most extensive procedural reforms have been in Israel, where child victims' testimony is usually presented in court by the youth examiner, and to a lesser extent in Scandinavia. Libai (1969) has suggested a way of eliminating the trial audience, including the defendant, which might preserve the defendant's right to confrontation and cross-examination without burdening the child victim. He advocates development of a 'child-courtroom,' an informal courtroom with a one-way mirror behind which would be the defendant and family and the public. The defendant could communicate with counsel in the interview room through a 'bug in the ear.' Demonstration projects using these and other techniques would be worthwhile, and research on children's understanding of the legal process would be helpful. Constitutional implications of these procedural reforms are mentioned. Footnotes and 13 references are presented.