A guide to clarifying evidence in Australian child forensic interviews

Burrows, Kimberlee S., Powell, Martine B. and Benson, Mairi 2016, A guide to clarifying evidence in Australian child forensic interviews, Journal of forensic practice, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 91-103, doi: 10.1108/JFP-09-2014-0030.

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Title A guide to clarifying evidence in Australian child forensic interviews
Author(s) Burrows, Kimberlee S.
Powell, Martine B.ORCID iD for Powell, Martine B. orcid.org/0000-0001-5092-1308
Benson, Mairi
Journal name Journal of forensic practice
Volume number 18
Issue number 2
Start page 91
End page 103
Total pages 13
Publisher Emerald Group Publishing
Place of publication Bingley, Eng.
Publication date 2016
ISSN 2050-8794
Keyword(s) evidence
child abuse prosecution
child witness
evidential quality
forensic interview
investigative interview
Summary Purpose – Interviewing victims of child sex abuse requires considerable care in order to minimise error. Due to children’s heightened suggestibility any question asked of a child could potentially incite error that could undermine the witness’s credibility. A focus group was conducted in order to facilitate the development of guidance for interviewers around the circumstances in which it is necessary to ask children follow-up questions in an interview. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach – Seven Crown prosecutors representing every Australian state and territory (with the exception of one small state) were issued with 25 hypothetical narrative accounts of child abuse and asked to indicate what information, if any, required follow-up in the child’s narrative. Their responses and rationale for requiring following up in some cases and not others were discussed.

Findings – Thematic analysis revealed three recommendations to guide questioning: whether the case involved identification or recognition evidence; the presence of contextual features that may influence the witness’s memory, or that should trigger a particular line of questioning; and whether the information can or should be sought at a later stage by the trial prosecutor, rather than by the interviewer. Practical implications – The recommendations are discussed within the context of their implications for interviewing, that is, how each recommendation could be implemented in practice.

Originality/value – The present study extends prior literature by elucidating principles to guide decision making across interview topic areas. The need for such guidance is highlighted by research suggesting that topics such as offender identity, offence time and place, and witnesses are a source of overzealous questioning in interviews.
Language eng
DOI 10.1108/JFP-09-2014-0030
Field of Research 170104 Forensic Psychology
160205 Police Administration, Procedures and Practice
Socio Economic Objective 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2016, Emerald Group Publishing
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30084299

Document type: Journal Article
Collections: Faculty of Health
School of Psychology
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