Children as witnesses


Papers presented at this conference discuss problems associated with children as witnesses, particularly in sexual abuse cases. An underlying concern of participants is that children who must give evidence in court do not become victims for a second time through the processes of the criminal justice system. The papers throw new light on the issue and make several major recommendations aimed at improving present practices and procedures.

Proceedings of a conference held 3-5 May 1988


Gathering evidence from child witnesses

  • Children as witnesses - legal aspects
    Paul Byrne
  • Gathering evidence from child witnesses: a police perspective
    David Jefferies

Discussion groups

  • The child as a witness - the use of aids
    George Vickers
  • The value of a joint professional approach
    David Jefferies
  • The use of protective behaviours when dealing with child witnesses
    Tracey Middlebrook
  • Protocols after disclosure of abuse
    Kim Dwyer

The child in court

  • Reliability and credibility of children as witnesses
    Don Thomson
  • The right to remain silent - the interrogation of children
    Moira Rayner

Discussion groups

  • Preparing the child witness
    Margaret Cunneen
  • Sensitising the court players and protecting the child
    Jeremy Scudds
  • Legal aspects
    Ron Cahill and Mark O'Neill
  • The use of clinical evidence
    Terry Donald

The court hearing

  • T.V or not T.V. - the question of the use of technology in courts where children are witnesses
    Ron Cahill and Mark O'Neill
  • The appropriateness of the court as a forum
    David Armati
  • Children and our courts
    Chris Staniforth
  • The use of a watching brief as a legal tool for the protection of child victims in the criminal justice process
    Patmalar Ambikapathy

Discussion groups

  • The court hearing - procedural improvements
    Anne McMillan
  • Improving the court environment
    Josef Szwarc
  • Lessening the involvement and trauma of children
    Helen Baker
  • Child sexual assault - are there alternatives to court action?
    Ferry Grunseit

Evidential aspects

  • Obstacles to prosecution in child sexual assault cases: a preliminary report on some Victorian data
    David Brereton and Gary Cole
  • Child witnesses: evidentiary reforms
    Kate Warner
  • Evidentiary aspects: improvements and reforms
    Stephen Mason

Consideration of the child witness in the Family Court

  • Consideration of the child witness in the Family Court
    Kemeri Murray
  • Consideration of the child witness in the Family Court - a Victorian perspective
    William Treyvaud
  • Children as witnesses in the Family Court
    Anne Banning
  • Children in the Family Court - another way to play blind man's bluff
    Marion Brown
  • The child witness in the Family Court
    John Foulsham

The effects on children and their fmilies

  • Long-term effects on children and their families
    Carmel Benjamin
  • The child's experience of the legal system
    Lisa Hayes and Gay Pincus


  • Recommendations
    Julia Vernon


  • The reliability of the child as witness
    R. K. Oates