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Vulnerable Witnesses - Children

NZ $50.00
Dr Kirsten Hanna 2015 Dr Emily Henderson 2015
Dr Kirsten Hanna
Senior Lecturer, AUT University
Dr Emily Henderson
Senior Solicitor, Henderson Reeves Connnell Rishworth

Author: Dr Kirsten Hanna, Dr Emily Henderson
Published: 10 November 2015
Pages: 52


Even very young children can tell us what they know if we ask them the right questions in the right way.1

Children can be very effective witnesses. By the age of two or three, children can accurately remember and recount past experiences;2 children have testified effectively and credibly in court even at three years of age;3 they can also be highly resistant to suggestion, under the right circumstances.4 Children’s ability to testify effectively can depend, amongst other things, on how questions are phrased — the language used and types of questions posed are critical. An understanding of children’s language, and the ways in which it differs from adults’, can help counsel formulate questions that facilitate children’s participation in proceedings.

In this section, we briefly outline some facts about children’s language and the nature of courtroom questioning, before considering some of the things to avoid when questioning children and adolescents. Throughout, “child witnesses” and “children” refer to young people under 18, consistent with the Evidence Act 2006 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

1 (Walker & Kenniston, 2013, p 2).
2 (Lamb, Hershkowitz, Orbach, & Esplin, 2008).
3 (Walker & Kenniston, 2013, p 2).
4 (Lamb, Hershkowitz, Orbach, & Esplin, 2008).

Content outline

  • Children’s language
  • Courtroom language
  • Two rules of thumb
    • Legalese and legal terminology
    • Formal language
    • Non-literal language
  • Words, phrases, expressions to be wary of
  • Grammar to avoid wherever possible
  • Communicating with vulnerable witnesses: practical measures when children are in Court
  • Introduction: why worry about language?
    • The law on cross-examination
    • Section 85 Evidence Act 2006
    • The barker revolution
  • Contributory factors: delay, stress & boredom
    • Dealing to pre-trial delay: pre-recording cross-examination
    • Simple measures to reduce stress: the whangarei child witness pilot
  • Communication assistance
    • R v Hetherington [2015] NZCA 248
    • How to use a CA
    • Funding & the appointment process
    • Preserving neutrality in an early-stage appointment
    • Pre-trial directions
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Youth Advocates Conference

Publication Date: 29-Jul-2015

Chair: Clare Bennett, Authors: Phil Adams, His Hon Judge Andrew Becroft, His Hon Judge Louis Bidois, Rob Black, Eleanor Chan Boon, Jim Boyack, Mike Butcher, Jared Cuff, Gary Earley, Eru Findlay, His Hon Judge Tony FitzGerald, Dr Emily Henderson, Pania Hetet, Dr Nathan Hughes, Dr Craig Immelman, Ingalise Jensen, La-Verne King, Aaron Lloydd, Her Hon Judge Ida Malosi, Her Hon Judge Jane McMeeken, Dr Brigit Mirfin-Veitch, Soana Moala, Fergus More, His Hon Judge Kevin Phillips, Chris Polaschek, Elizabeth Purcell, Deepti Reddy, Jemma Stephens, His Hon Judge Heemi Taumaunu, Vicki Thorpe, Derek Whitehead, Dr Huw Willliams

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