Institute of Public Policy - Child Witnesses in NZ Criminal Courts

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Child Witnesses in NZ Criminal Courts

26 Apr 2010

CourtroomEnsuring that all accused persons have a fair trial, and obtaining the most accurate and complete testimony from witnesses, are critical to the quality of justice delivered by the courts.

Testifying can be difficult for adults, let alone children. Indeed concerns have been raised in New Zealand about the treatment of child witnesses since at least the 1960s.

The purpose of this study is to see how far we have come today in addressing the concerns since then, and the extent to which measures adopted to ameliorate conditions for children—while protecting accused adults—have achieved their aims.

The study focuses on children aged 17 years and under who have given evidence as witnesses for the prosecution in criminal proceedings, whether as complainants or witnesses. Data was collected throughout 2008 and 2009 on children involved in trials set down for the District Courts at Auckland, Manukau, Wellington and Christchurch and in the High Courts at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
 
The report has found inconsistent implementation of  existing law and policy in relation to children and some regional variation in practices. It also identifies alternative processes that work well in other jurisdictions for facilitating children's participation in criminal proceedings which could be adapted to the New Zealand context and recommends systematic monitoring of the status of child witnesses in the system which will enable effective ongoing evaluation of any improved or new measures.

The research was an independent, non-commissioned report funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation with further contributions from the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Justice and the New Zealand Police.

The report prepared by the Institute of Public Policy, was outlined by co-authors Dr Kirsten Hanna (Principal Researcher, Senior Research Officer IPP), Dr Emma Davies (Programme Director Social Development, IPP) and Dr Emily Henderson at symposium held as part of the LexisNexis Child Law Conference in Auckland on 22 April 2010. The Children's Commissioner Dr John Angus officially launched the report at 5.30pm.

Last updated: 26 Apr 2010 10:45am

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