• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

What advice would you give to a defence lawyer who needed to question, and discredit, a child witness who was testifying against the defendant?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

What advice would you give to a defence lawyer who needed to question, and discredit, a child witness who was testifying against the defendant? 'The cross-examination of a child is probably the most challenging courtroom situation a criminal lawyer faces', and accordingly should be handled 'very cautiously', Thompson (1993). I would strongly advise lawyers to follow the Memorandum published by the Home Office, as no jury will tolerate the examiner attacking the witness or breeching the guidelines. Instead, I would advise the lawyer to use clever psychological interviewing techniques to discredit the child's testimony. Children are called to testify for many reasons and on numerous occasions, however many judges still find it difficult to assess the credibility of a child witness, without any other evidence. There have been numerous investigations into children's credibility and the effects of interviewing practices on their reports; primarily due to the impetus created by previous major cases (Krackow and Lynn 2003). Historically, psychological research is partly to blame for children being considered as unreliable witnesses, Freud disregarded many reports of childhood abuse, Smith, Cowie and Blades, 2003). ...read more.

Middle

Leading questions are frequently used by defence lawyers, but also by interviewers; Lane et al 2000 (Krackow, 2003) discovered that even professionals found it difficult to recall whether they had used leading questions, this is another way the prosecutions evidence can be disregarded. Children lack the confidence to oppose suggestive questions and thus accept them. The lawyer should use open-ended questions that elicit free recall as they produce brief indecisive statements, Williams and Banyard (1999). However, questions that require a direct yes or no response can also produce derogatory results. Dale Loftus and Rathburn (1978) (Krackow 2003) found that the questions wording is important, and special attention must be paid to the use of a definite article such as 'the' opposed to a quantifier such as 'a', to increase inaccurate responses. This can also be done by adding suggestive tags such as 'did you' to a question, Krackow and Lynn (2003). Through repeated questioning inconsistencies can be seen in children's testimony, this is presumably because children believe that their first answers were incorrect. Cassel and Bjorkland (in press, cited in Ceci and Bruck,1995), give evidence that kindergarten children are more likely to change their answers and incorporate the suggested reply in their second responses. ...read more.

Conclusion

Thus it is initially important to establish a relationship based on trust and to use simple language the child can understand, which leads to easier implantation of suggestions into children's minds, Thompson (1993). Despite suggestions that simple language should be used, there is much evidence supporting the use of complex legal terminology. Perry et al. (1995) found that 'lawyerese' language makes children's responses less accurate and Saywitz (1990) found that children rarely understood words such as 'competence' and 'allegation' (Waterman,2000). Thus, the lawyer should make a specific assessment about the language needed. Moreover to ensure he pays attention to any non-verbal cues and the voice tone used as these are highly influential, Thompson (1993). It is clear that through effective cross examination, 'with skilful attention to well posed and carefully presented questions' a child can be shown not to have credible evidence to present in court, Thompson (1993). Children's suggestibility can easily be undermined. Furthermore, cases are often decided on the basis of children's comparative credibility, and thus using thorough knowledge of the situation in hand the defence lawyer can easily achieve his aim of making the child look incredible, and hopefully winning hid defendants case in court. 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Developmental Psychology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work