An exploration into the reliability of child witness memory evidence: The role of standardised assessment, misinformation, and the perception of professionals

Williams, Catrin (2021). An exploration into the reliability of child witness memory evidence: The role of standardised assessment, misinformation, and the perception of professionals. University of Birmingham. Foren.Psy.D.

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The Criminal Justice System (CJS) regularly calls upon child witnesses in legal proceedings. It is vitally important that the reliability of a witness’s account is assessed to ensure that accurate evidence is being relied upon in legal decision-making. The overarching aim of this thesis is to better understand the practicalities of working with child memory evidence and how to support this by: (1) examining how a measurement of suggestibility to incorrect information (i.e., misinformation) could be incorporated into practice, to identify whether assessing suggestibility to misinformation could benefit forensic practitioners and child witnesses; and (2) examining how children are perceived by criminal justice professionals, and how professionals work with child memory evidence.
This thesis includes a meta-analysis, which found that child witnesses are more likely than adults to succumb to misinformation (Chapter 2). Next, a qualitative study with focus groups of UK professionals working with child memory evidence elucidated opinions about evidence from children and found that professionals were able to identify gaps and issues with current practice and did not appear to have access to a standardised assessment of reliability (Chapter 3). Therefore, the Bonn Test Statement of Suggestibility (BTSS; Endres, 1997) was analysed to assess its applicability to support professionals. It was identified as theoretically useful, though important ethical considerations were highlighted (Chapter 4).
Together, this work identifies gaps in the current literature, such as the need to better understand the impact that professionals have on child well-being and evidence, the perceptions that different professionals (e.g., lawyers) have of children, and further meta-analytical assessment of moderating factors of suggestibility to misinformation (e.g., retention interval, misinformation timing, cognitive factors). Practically, the work identifies a need for training and psychological resources to support professionals in the UK to assess the reliability of accounts from child witnesses.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Foren.Psy.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Foren.Psy.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Psychology
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology


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