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"A Full and Candid Account"

Using Special Accommodations and Testimonial Aids to Facilitate the Testimony of Children

Alison Cunningham and Pamela Hurley (2007)

These seven concise handbooks help prosecutors, victim-support workers, judges and others understand and meet the needs of children who testify in court. The goal of these efforts is to help the witness provide complete and accurate evidence to the judge or jury. Topics covered are: overview of issues related to child testimony, testifying outside the courtroom (e.g., via CCTV), witness screens, video-recorded evidence, designated support person, hearsay evidence and children, and children and teenagers who testify in domestic violence cases. This is an initiative of the Child Witness Project undertaken with funding from the Department of Justice Canada.

For more information about supporting child witnesses, see the training resource suitable for use in northern Canada called Journey to Justice (2009) and a complete guide on how to prepare children for court called Helping a Child be a Witness in Court (2011).


Overview of Issues Related to Child Testimony

Overview of Issues Related to Child Testimony

The first of the seven handbooks which introduces the reader to the Child Witness Project, features of the legal process which are stressful for children, currently available testimonial aids and other accommodations, tips for questioning children, and a brief summary of the five principal components of pre-court preparation services for children: education, role playing, relaxation training and anxiety management, court orientation and support and debriefing and follow-up. 2007, 26 p.

Availability

Available for download as a PDF; hard copies are available for purchase ($20.00 per set of seven); en français (Aperçu de questions concernant de témoignage d'un enfant)

Testimony Outside the Courtroom

Testimony Outside the Courtroom

The focus here is on testimony outside the courtroom, including the use of CCTV to enable a child to testify from elsewhere in the courthouse. The topic of remote testimony is also discussed. In this approach, testimony is transmitted "live" from a location outside the courthouse, using secure electronic transmission supported by a fast-evolving menu of options. That remote location could be as close as an adjacent building or as far away as another country. You also find here a discussion of trauma in young crime victims and witnesses, diagrams of various configurations of testimony rooms, FAQs, what children say about testifying outside the courtroom, and tips for explaining CCTV to children. 2007, 30 p.

Availability

Available for download as a PDF; hard copies are available for purchase ($20.00 per set of seven); en français (Témoignage à l'extérieur de la salle d'audience)

Witness Screens

Witness Screens

A witness screen is a device positioned to shield a testifying child from seeing the accused in the courtroom. The most common device is the one-way screen, as illustrated on this handbook's cover. The witness sees only the screen itself but the accused can see the witness. Less commonly, we find other screening arrangements and courtroom configurations using physical barriers to block the child's view of the accused. This arrangement for the courtroom designed with children in mind is also described here. Topics also covered are what children like about screens, what children don't like about screens, good practice guidance for using witness screens, and tips for working with developmentally delayed witnesses and those who have attention limitations. 2007, 26 p.

Availability

Available for download as a PDF; hard copies are available for purchase ($20.00 per set of seven); en français (Écrans de témoin)

Video-recorded Evidence

Video-recorded Evidence

This accommodation is available when a child's statement to police (and/or a child protection official) is recorded on video tape or in a digital manner as on a DVD. For a recorded statement to be admissible, certain criteria must be met including that the child, while testifying, must state that the statement is the truth and be available for cross-examination. You will also find guidance here about interviewing children. 2007, 18 p.

Availability

Available for download as a PDF; hard copies are available for purchase ($20.00 per set of seven); en français (Enregistrement vidéo)

Designated Support Person

Designated Support Person

A support person is someone permitted by the judge or justice, upon application, to sit or stand close to a child witness while he or she testifies. This testimonial aid can be used in any courtroom environment, from the largest city to the most remote village. Children appreciate the assistance of a support person and it can be used in conjunction with other aids such as the witness screen or closed-circuit testimony. Also find in this handbook a tip sheet for the first-time support person, guidance on explaining the role to teenagers, and a discussion of working with child witnesses who are deaf or hard of hearing. 2007, 22 p.

Availability

Available for download as a PDF; hard copies are available for purchase ($20.00 per set of seven); en français (Personne de confiance designée)

Hearsay Evidence and Children

Hearsay Evidence and Children

The focus in this handbook is on the use of children's out-of-court statements as evidence. Because of young age, emotional trauma, or the passage of time, some children cannot give direct evidence. In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada first ruled that a child's out-of-court statement is admissible when reasonably necessary and where the circumstances suggest it is reliable. In other words, if a child describes events related to a criminal victimization, but is unable or unavailable to testify, the person who received the information can repeat the child's words from the witness box. This is hearsay evidence. 2007, 14 p.

Availability

Available for download as a PDF; hard copies are available for purchase ($20.00 per set of seven); en français (Preuve par ouï-dire et les enfants)

Children and Teenagers Testifying in Domestic Violence Cases

Children and Teenagers Testifying in Domestic Violence Cases

The focus here is on children who are potential witnesses in domestic violence cases. Their names may be on a witness list because they gave a police statement during the investigation. We also discuss teenaged complainants in intimate violence cases, who are another type of "child witness." For the children and teenagers, these cases present both the typical challenges for court witnesses as well as pressures unique to offences occurring within the family context. You will find here information on how domestic violence is understood by children, an overview of the concept of domestic violence court, FAQs, questions children may ask, and suggestions on how to support complainant parents. 2007, 24 p.

Availability

Available for download as a PDF; hard copies are available for purchase ($20.00 per set of seven); en français (Les enfants et les ados qui témoignent dans des cas de violence conjugale)

 

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