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Questioning Children in Court

Questioning Children in Court
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Communicating with and questioning children in court, especially in sexual violence cases, requires special sensitivity and planning.

This FREE full-day forum will provide background understanding, and practice in asking better questions.

From the Chair

In recent years there have been significant and ongoing changes to the way in which children are questioned in family and criminal court proceedings. In criminal cases involving allegations of sexual offending, a child witness will undoubtedly find the process daunting and overwhelming. Learning how to effectively question a child witness presents a challenge for all counsel but is particularly challenging for defence advocates who are obliged to cross-examine a witness on significant matters which are relevant and in issue, while also taking into account the young age of the witness.

I am pleased to Chair this highly qualified panel of experts from various fields who will share with you their collective knowledge and experience. We all look forward to your participation in this forum on this important and developing topic.

Chair: Jo Wickliffe


When children take part in court proceedings as a witness or complainant, they find themselves in a stressful and daunting environment. Their stress is exacerbated when they participate in a case involving allegations of sexual offending. Children have a different general understanding of language from that of adults and the court setting with all its jargon can affect their ability to understand what has been asked and how they are to answer clearly. It is vital that counsel develop the skill of formulating questions that children can understand and accurately answer.

The programme will include presentations by all the panellists, practice in developing better questions, and plenty of time for discussion and questions. 

Topics covered will include:

  • How children think and how they are different from adults
  • Particular issues for questioning in sexual violence cases
  • Types of questions that are confusing or difficult for children
  • Question types that are better for children
  • How Communication Assistants work with children
  • How a Communication Assistant and a lawyer can work together.
Download the programme for the day

Learning objectives

By attending this forum you will:

  • Gain knowledge of the research on how children think and understand.
  • Improve your ability to formulate questions suitable for children.
  • Access resources to help improve your future practice.


This forum will include a mix of presentations, discussion and comment from all presenters. You will be able to ask questions in advance and during the forum.


There is a large amount of excellent research, practical websites and other relevant reading available online. View the forum resources here
We recommend you spend at least two hours preparing for the forum.  


  • Chair: Jo Wickliffe, Guardian Chambers, Auckland
  • Michelle Bonetti, Moretalk, Whangarei
  • Deirdre Brown, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington
  • Tracy Karanui-Golf, Talking Trouble Aotearoa NZ, Auckland
  • Sally Kedge, Talklng Trouble Aotearoa NZ, Auckland
  • Mark Stephenson, Talking Trouble Aotearoa NZ, Auckland
  • Rob Stevens, Public Defence Service, Auckland


  • The forum is on Thursday 24 June at Ellerslie Event Centre or you can attend online. It will run from 9.00am - 4.00pm and there will be breaks for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea.
  • Live web stream registrations close 3pm Wednesday 23 June.

Who should attend

Criminal and family lawyers who question children in court, in particular in sexual violence cases.

Fee (incl GST)


  • This programme is offered free of charge - but you must still register.
  • Live web stream registrations close 3pm Wednesday 23 June.

Download PDF Brochure & registration form here.

Sponsored by 

MOJ Logo

Auckland 24 June
Live Web Stream 24 June

Cancellation policy

NZLS CLE Ltd reserves the right to cancel or reschedule this programme if necessary.
freephone (within NZ)
0800 333 111

[email protected]

04 472 7837

04 463 2986
Level 4, 17-21 Whitmore Street
Wellington 6011

DX SP 20202
PO Box 5041
Wellington 6140
New Zealand