Child witnesses have provided a basis for controversy over the years in criminal justice. There are two main things that people worry about when it comes to having a child witness, one is the anxiety that is put on the child with regard to the traumatic experience and the other is dependability of the testimony. Child testimony has long been considered an important part of the case but what is to be done when there are questions regarding legal, ethical, and professional ways to interact with the children.
Legal, ethical, and professional considerations all tie into each other when it comes to children. The first part of a criminal investigation before the court case would be the line ups and interviews. Line ups can be difficult for adults to do correctly especially when they do not really know the person, now put a traumatized child into the same situation. The child already has less of a memory than an adult, that encompassed with trauma may lead to inaccuracies with the line ups, particularly if someone looks close to the suspect but the actual suspect is not in the lineup. This part is not as crucial as the police may understand an incorrect suspect picked out if they look similar to the actual respondent. The second part of the investigation, which is much more vital, is the interview.
The interview can have many difficulties and can lead to children placing fallacious charges onto a person, depending on how the interview is performed. Some of the problems with the interviews are leading questions, and interaction between an interviewer and the child. An interviewer can actually cause a child to become confused in the way they remember things if they do not ask questions in an appropriate way. The interview brings in the issue of ethics and professional performance as well. If an interviewer believes that the particular suspect may have committed certain offenses against a child it may cause them to ask leading questions. If the officer or interviewer puts their own beliefs into the questioning it is unethical and unprofessional. An interviewer should be trained to ask open ended, point blank questions where they do not put in an opinion of their own. If proper training is done then the questions asked are more likely to illicit an appropriate response. Due to improper and unethical questioning/interviewing the question of reliability of children witnesses has been discussed. Once a child witness is believed to have experienced or witnessed a situation in which a particular subject is charged they then have to go into court.
In the case of child witnesses in court many distinctive situations occur depending on the type of case, however, all cases have some things in common. One thing in particular that the court cases have in common is that they have the potential to cause severe stress and trauma to the child that is testifying. Some children become so afraid that they do not want to testify. The courts have...