Child Witness Paper

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Police Research Series
Paper 115

Interviewing Child Witnesses
under the Memorandum of
Good Practice:
A research review

Graham M. Davies
Helen L. Westcott

Police Research Series
Paper 115

Interviewing Child Witnesses
under the Memorandum of
Good Practice:
A research review

Graham M. Davies
Helen L. Westcott

Editor: Barry Webb
Home Office
Policing and Reducing Crime Unit
Research, Development and Statistics Directorate
Clive House, Petty France
London, SW1H 9HD

C

Crown Copyright 1999
First Published 1999

Policing and Reducing Crime Unit: Police Research Series
The Policing and Reducing Crime Unit (PRC) was formed in 1998 as a result of the merger of the Police Research Group (PRG) and the Research and Statistics Directorate. PRC is now part of the Research, Development and Statistics Directorate of the Home Office. PRC carries out and commissions research in the social and management sciences on policing and crime reduction. PRC has now combined PRG’s two main series into the Police Research Series. The series will present research material on crime prevention and detection as well as police management and organisation issues.

Research commissioned by PRG will appear as a PRC publication.

ISBN 1-84082-328-3

Copies of this publication can be made available in formats accessible to the visually impaired on request.

(ii)

Foreword
The ‘Memorandum of Good Practice on Video Recorded Interviews with Child Witnesses for Criminal Proceedings’ (Home Office/Department of Health) was published in 1992 to provide guidance to police officers and social workers responsible for undertaking video-recorded interviews with child victims or witnesses. The document outlined core principles to be followed when conducting interviews; the video could then be played in court to spare the child the necessity of giving live examination-in-chief.

Since 1992, much literature and research has been generated around the Memorandum and around the issue of child witnesses in general. This report reviews this literature, drawing out the implications that this has for interviews conducted under Memorandum guidelines. It will therefore be of relevance for police officers, social workers and other agencies involved in investigations and interviews with children.

The report also complements recent policy recommendations, such as those contained in the Home Office consultation document ‘Speaking Up For Justice’, some of which are included in the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill. It should also help to inform the revision of the original Memorandum, which is being taken forward as part of the programme of implementation of ‘Speaking Up For Justice’.

Gloria Laycock
Policing and Reducing Crime Unit
Home Office
September 1999

(iii)

Acknowledgements
The authors wish to thank Sally Pearson for her valuable research assistance, Julie Taylor-Browne for her encouragement and patience, and Emma Marshall for her work in seeing this report through to publication.

The Authors
q

Graham Davies is a Professor of psychology at Leicester University; and,

q

Helen Westcott is a lecturer in psychology at The Open University.

PRCU would like to thank Professor Ray Bull, Portsmouth University, who acted as external assessor for this report.

(iv)

Executive summary
This report summarises the findings of recent research on children as witnesses and draws out the implications for the conduct of interviews under the ‘Memorandum of Good Practice on Video Recorded Interviews with Child Witnesses for Criminal Proceedings’ (Home Office/Department of Health, 1992). Most of the research reviewed here has been conducted or published since the Memorandum was drafted. The report does not, however, pretend to be an exhaustive academic literature review, but aims to focus on the practical relevance that studies in psychology, social work and policing have for investigative interviewing. Child...
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