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Prosecutors' recommendations for improving child witness statements about sexual abuse
journal contributionposted on 2014-01-01, 00:00 authored by Kimberlee Burrows, Martine Powell
Child sexual abuse cases are often not prosecuted because of poor evidential quality. The aim of this study was to elicit suggestions from prosecutors as to how investigative interviews with child witnesses (the main form of evidence in child abuse cases) could be improved. Thirty-six in-depth phone interviews were held with 19 trial prosecutors shortly before and after trials. For each case, prosecutors were asked to provide feedback about the strengths and limitations of the child witness interviews, along with suggestions for how the interviews could have been improved. Thematic analysis revealed three broad areas for improvement: the need for tighter focus on the elements of the offence, better clarification of inconsistencies and ambiguities in the account, and greater consideration of how the child presents in the eyes of the jury. These areas, along with the prosecutors' practical suggestions, are outlined. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of these findings for trainers in child witness interviewing.