Critically Discuss the Psychological Evidence That Helps to Explain the Use of Evidence Given in Court by Children Under the Age of 11

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Critically discuss the psychological evidence that helps to explain the use of evidence given in court by children under the age of 11, (usually described as ‘child witnesses’) In the past 20 years the number of psychological studies on child witnesses and the competency of them being interviewed as well as the evidence being given by them has grown from very few quality studies to several thousand. Issues such as suggestibility, the effects of individual differences and the effects of long delays on their recall have been brought up and discussed in these studies. (Memon, Vrij & Bull, 2006) Traditionally, most Criminal Justice Systems have been reluctant to accept the testimony of young children, believing that they make less reliable witnesses than adults do. Although in recent years the balance has shifted and the evidence of children is now much more likely to be accepted. (Ainsworth, 1998) All witnesses defined as a child at the date of the trial, and irrespective of the nature of the offence, are automatically classified as vulnerable and this eligible for a range of protective special measures to enable them to give a testimony in court. There special measures include in-court screens, live TV link, removal of wigs and gowns and provision of any necessary aids to communication. (Raitt, 2007)

The issue of children’s competency to testify in court has changed from the presumption that no minor is competent to the belief that all children are competent, which also means that a child can be compelled to testify whether voluntarily or not. Donaldson et al (1983, cited in Spencer & Flin, 1993) believed that much of the research carried out in the first half of the century seemed to have been curiously preoccupied with children’s incapacities. This traditional assumption of childhood incompetence may have stemmed from a historical tendency…...

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