Literature Review of the Reliability of Children as Eyewitnesses

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Evidence provided in many courtroom cases can range from DNA samples, eyewitness testimony and video-recordings, to name a few. What happens when one of the main sources of information in a case comes from a child? Even worse, what if the child is the victim in the case? The topic of children participating and providing testimony in courtroom settings is an image that, presumably, most would not associate as a “usual” place for children. Yet in cases such as sexual abuse or violence towards a child or within the child’s family, it is not impossible to have cases where children are the predominant source of information provided for judges and jurors. Ref It is then important to consider the reliability of children’s testimonial accounts …show more content…
Judge’s Perceptions On the other hand, this increase in involvement calls upon the perception of judges and jurors on the testimonies given by children, specifically on the credibility and reliability of the given information. Credibility, in this case, as defined by Nurcombe (1986), is the belief of a child being able to give information that is both truthful and accurate. Alongside credibility, suggestibility is also mentioned in a lot of research regarding children’s testimonies (Crossman & Caron, 2006; Davies & Pezdek, 2010; Lampinen & Smith, 1995; Zaja & Hayne, 2003). Davies and Pezdek define suggestibility as the vulnerability of children to believing details that were not actually observed during the witnessing of an event (2010).
According to Bala, Ramakrishnan, Lindsay and Lee in 2005, when asked which age group would likely be more affected, judges significantly perceived children to be more prone to suggestion than adults with a difference of 29 percent (absolute numbers would be useful here). In this same study, judges also believed that children are more affected by questions leading them in the wrong direction in terms of recall accuracy (Bala et al, 2005). Lastly, due to the nature of development, children’s limitations in memory capacity led judges to assume that children are more likely to make errors in providing information about previous events (Bala et al, 2005).

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