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Videotaping Investigative Interviews of Children in Cases of Child Sexual Abuse: One Community's Approach

NCJ Number
The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology Volume: 96 Issue: 4 Dated: Summer 2006 Pages: 1353-1416
Frank E. Vandervort
Date Published
64 pages
Drawing on data from St. Mary County, this article analyzes the debate over whether investigative interviews with children should be videotaped during the course of child sexual abuse investigations.
Quantitative and qualitative research findings on the videotaping protocol utilized in St. Mary County are presented as evidence that videotaping interviews with children can be successfully used as one component of child sexual abuse investigations. Arguments for and against videotaping investigative interviews with children are enumerated. Arguments against videotaping are typically advanced by prosecutors and focus on the judicial lack of understanding of child development. Defense attorneys and some child advocates have argued for videotaping on the grounds of due process rights and fundamental fairness issues. The author contends that this debate has become trapped in a vacuum in which other investigative techniques and procedures are ignored. Instead of simply asking whether or not to videotape children during child abuse investigations, communities should be asking whether videotaping should be used as one component of a broader investigative protocol that addresses the unique evidentiary demands of the case. A community’s interest in the videotaping controversy is considered, which focuses on a community’s right to establish normative behavior and reduce sexual offending. The evidence from St. Mary County indicated that their investigative protocol for child sexual abuse cases, which included the videotaping of child interviews when it fit the case, served the community’s interests by obtaining justice for victims while respecting defendants’ due process rights. St. Mary County also focused on rehabilitative sanctions rather than retributive punishment for offenders as a means of encouraging offenders to take responsibility for their actions. Future research should focus on replicating the St. Mary protocol in large, urban settings. Footnotes