n Child Abuse Research in South Africa - The effect of the accusatorial system on the child witness

Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1562-1383



Testifying in an accusatorial environment is a stressful experience for a child witness. they will have to give evidence in the presence of a group of people, previously unknown to them, often about embarrassing and intimate details. If the child is the complainant in the matter, he or she has the further arduous task of having to give evidence in the presence of the accused. The child is then cross-examined by the accused's representative, or even worse, by the accused. The cross-examination is often hostile, and is finally employed to suggest to the court that the witness has some other motive in implicating the accused falsely. The setting of the courtroom is itself alien with the key figures wearing long black gowns. A procedure is followed that is not understood by the ordinary lay person. The language used is formalistic, at times archaic and very specialised. This article aims to look at those features of the court process which create difficulties for children, in an attempt to understand the position children are placed in when they have to give evidence.

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