interviewing a child witness and the duty of the court in protecting the child
Handling a child witness requires a different approach compared to an adult witness. Interrogating a child witness entails a lot of patience, understanding and prudence on the part of the person who is interviewing.
The main concern in approaching a child is to open a clear and concise communication as well as to fully understand the facts of the case from the perspective of the child.
The law under this special circumstance allows the judicial officer to make the necessary query to the child with regards to the case at hand.
In opening a communication with the child, the officer must take all the precaution to treat the child with utmost respect and dignity in order to extract and get the best possible evidence in court. He should take into account the emotional stability of the child during the whole process and avoid any harassing or demeaning questions that can rattle the child.
Children can give clear, brief and credible information regarding what they know about a particular case.
They can easily recollect and express what they have seen, heard and what has transpired during a particular event in question. However, this reliability is often associated with how they are questioned and interrogated. There is no evidence that will prove that they have a more tendency to lie compared to an adult.
Legal proceedings are not easily understood. The legal jargons and principles are more often exclusively used in the legal profession, and even layman could not easily understand them.
The same thing can be worse for a child. In interrogating, a child witness, the judicial officer, and the counsels of the parties should not assume that the questions and queries were addressed to the child is easily understood. If needed, they should paraphrase a question to match the capacity of the child to understand. The hostility that is predominant and a common sight in a court proceeding should be avoided in the interview of the child witness.
If needed, the court may require the attendance of the independent lawyer of the child and a Family consultant during the interrogation of the child. It will provide additional protection to the welfare of the child during the interview/query.
The family consultant will then make the necessary report regarding the pertinent information extracted during the interview. This information can be used as additional evidence to help the court in deciding the case.
Disclaimer : This article provides basic information only and is not a substitute for a professional or legal advice. It is prudent to obtain legal advice from a family lawyer.