Hill, Emily Sarah (2011)
Foren.Psy.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
Background: The past three decades have seen significant changes in investigative and legal procedures for child witnesses and other vulnerable groups. Specifically, these innovations have included the introduction of video technology into the courtroom and the development of prescriptive guidance on the interviewing of witnesses and suspects, and subsequent comprehensive training materials. The importance of interrogative suggestibility upon the reliability of evidence was identified and resulted in the development of The Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scales (GSS, Gudjonsson, 1984, 1987), designed to objectively measure this concept. Method: In Chapter 1 of this thesis, a systematic literature review considers the impact of video technology on child witness well-being, evidential quality and perceptions of witness credibility. The empirical research paper in Chapter 2 then examines the content of investigative interviews with child witnesses and evaluates their adherence to investigative guidelines (Home Office, 1992, 2002, 2007, 2011). Chapter 3 provides a critique of the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scales (Gudjonsson, 1984; 1987).
Results: The systematic review provides support for the positive impact of video technology upon child witness well-being. There was no evidence to suggest any negative impact of video technology with regard to trial outcome in the UK. Issues regarding video technology and credibility were less clear, although it would appear that video technology has some negative impact upon credibility. Issues with US and UK legislative procedures are discussed. The empirical research study revealed that investigative interviews with child witnesses continue to fail to adequately adhere to the prescriptive guidelines. An examination of the
II Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale revealed that they are robust and reliable and that practitioners need to be aware of the implications of suggestibility in practice, particularly with child witnesses.
Conclusions: Very significant changes have been made in investigative and legal procedures for vulnerable witnesses and suspects. Much of these changes are a result of psychological research on eliciting evidence from vulnerable witnesses and suspects. However, the findings reported in this thesis suggest the need for further research and advancements in practice.
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