n South African Journal of Criminal Justice - Judicial management in child abuse cases : empowering judicial officers to be 'the boss of the court'

Volume 18, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-8527
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2118



It is the role of the judicial offi cer to manage court proceedings. This role assumes greater signifi cance when the witness is a child, as children are in a more vulnerable position than adults due to their lack of maturity and developmental limitations. Children have particular diffi culties with testifying in the courtroom. These diffi culties include a lack of understanding of court proceedings, cognitive disadvantages, lack of language specialisation as well as a general lack of sophistication. Given these diffi culties, it is argued that judicial offi cers need to take a more active role in court proceedings involving child witnesses. Possible accommodations in the courtroom for assisting child witnesses are suggested. It is submitted that ground rules should be introduced regarding the treatment of child witnesses to facilitate their testimony. These rules should relate to the manner in which questions are posed, ensuring that they are age-appropriate, the use of scheduled breaks and the minimisation of postponements and delays. Other accommodations would include a special welcome to child witnesses and a few minutes of rapport-building to set them at ease, as well as age-appropriate information to assist them to understand what their role in the courtroom is.

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