n South African Journal of Criminal Justice - Pre-recorded videotaped evidence of child witnesses

Volume 19, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-8527
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2118



The South African Law Commission recently rejected the proposal that prerecorded videotaped evidence of child witnesses be used in the trial process as a way of protecting the child from further trauma and assisting the court in its truth seeking function. This article examines whether the Law Commission's position is well founded. It analyses the problems attendant on the present system with regard to child witnesses, arising chiefly from its adherence to the adversarial system and the focus on aggressive cross-examination of the child witness, and suggests videotaped evidence as a possible solution. The main potential barriers to implementing such a procedure, namely the traditions of orality and the rules against hearsay, as well as the Constitutional argument regarding the right to a fair trial, are examined. It is concluded that such issues could be successfully overcome, provided the necessary safeguards are in place in order to protect the rights of the accused. The only real problem attendant on this procedure seems to be one of implementation and lack of resources. However, it is questioned whether this is a sufficiently strong argument against allowing a procedure that could potentially hold such significant benefits.

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