An investigation into the experiences of child complainants of sexual abuse within the criminal justice system

Criminology Research Council grant ; (23/98-9)

This study focused on the experiences of child complainants of sexual abuse across three jurisdictions: Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. Specifically, the research examined the experiences of child complainants in the criminal justice system as well as the consequences of their involvement in the process. In-depth interviews were conducted with children and combined with data gathered from parents, crown prosecutors, defence lawyers, court support personnel and members of the judiciary.

The findings identified a number of issues for child complainants including problems in reporting, the court environment, pre-recording of evidence, the use of closed-circuit television, judges and magistrates, legal language and the children's own suggestions for reform. Overwhelmingly the key problems were the lengthy wait for trial, seeing the accused, and the cross-examination process. The study suggests principles for reform and calls for substantial reform to address the manner in which the criminal justice system remains the legally sanctioned context for the prosecution of the abuse of children.