n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Child witnesses in the criminal justice system

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An essential element of any effective justice system is the protection of child victims and child witnesses of crime. Where provision is not made for separate and specialised services for this vulnerable group, they may be further exposed to the negative effects of the criminal justice system or may even be (further) victimised by it.

In the early part of the 20th century most research on child witnesses had been conducted in Europe, especially in Germany and France. Little attention was paid to the phenomenon of child witnesses in the United States until the 1920s and even then only a few studies on the child witness were conducted prior to the 1980s (Institute for Psychological Therapies 1998). These studies show that although children in Canada, America and Great Britain were rarely permitted to testify, in some other European countries it was general practice. This led to research that dealt directly with children's court testimony. At the time the general conclusion was that (only) young children were suggestible and vulnerable to making serious errors in their court testimony (Ceci & Bruck; Goodman; Wakefield & Underwager in Institute for Psychological Therapies 1998).


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