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Entries in child interviews (1)

Sunday
Dec182011

Interviewing of child witnesses

New guidance on the Joint Interviewing of Child Witnesses have been published by the Scottish Government. 

Police and social work practice in interviewing children following allegations of sexual abuse was severely criticised during the subsequent court hearing last year.

The new guidelines stress the need for video recording of such interviews and stipulate how questioning of children can follow best practice and be child-centred. 

They also state that: "There is a need for all interviewers to consider explicitly the possibility or probability that a child may have been subject to coaching prior to the interview process. This issue may arise where a parent or carer is involved in the allegations, and also may arise if there are any ongoing divorce, separation, child abduction, residence or contact issues in the family. For these reasons, it is very ill-advised ever to have any third party present who has an interest in the custody of the child or in the parental relationship." (para 195)

The guidance also states that practitioners should bear in mind the current guidance of the European Court of Human Rights in TP and KM v United Kingdom(2002) 34 EHRR 2. In principle this will mean that in cases where respect for family life is involved (i.e. where the child may be removed from home or contact with the child restricted, in circumstances that are a matter of dispute) recordings should generally be made available at an early stage for viewing by persons with parental responsibility for the child. (para 224)

FNF Scotland welcomes this tightening of procedures, and suggests that these guidelines should also be followed by bar reporters, curators and safeguarders when interviewing children in circumstances where allegations of abuse have been made. 

The guidance also mentions the risk of biased interviewing: "... Biased interviews are not just restricted to professionals who interview children but can include parents, teachers and others, such as interpreters or experts who are not trained/experienced in talking to children." (para 40).