Forensic interviews of children – improving outcomes for children, professionals and the Child Protection and Criminal Justice Systems (Working title)

This research explores whether improved training for practitioners can result in more effective interviews of child witnesses.

Key details

Lead institution
Principal researcher(s)
Kate Richardson
Police region
North East
Level of research
Project start date
Date due for completion

Research context

Children are traditionally seen as unreliable witnesses (Brown and Lamb in Kuehnle, K and Connell, M, 2009) and their access to effective criminal justice is limited.

Outcomes in criminal cases involving children demonstrate high levels of non-disclosure amongst child victims, high acquittal rates and poor reported experiences of interview amongst other concerns (NSPCC, 2014; SECASA, 2011; Daly, K. 2011; Cross and others, 2003).

The aim of the project is to explore whether a better understanding of the impact of trauma on children, when applied in practice, results in achieving better outcomes. These outcomes are specifically whether children are enabled to give clear and consistent information about their experience and that this in turn is of benefit to the child, criminal and civil justice processes, and risk assessment and management of offenders.

Research methodology

A review of current global practices will be undertaken to consider the history and development of forensic interviews for children, the desired and expected outcomes for justice, child rights and welfare. The review will include consideration of the outcomes for more marginalised groups of children, in particular disabled children and children from care backgrounds, with the aim of establishing whether access to the current system is more limited for some children than for others.

Following the review and exploration of current practice and professional attitudes, a training programme based on enhancing practitioners’ knowledge of trauma, resilience and recovery for children who have been abused will be developed and delivered to 20 participants.

The proposed method of analysis would include pre and post training analysis, interviews of professionals and collation of publicly available information.

Focus groups, interviews and training and evaluation of the theoretical perspective with professionals will allow testing and building of the theory to respond to the real life situation. The choice of a qualitative action research component is particularly helpful in engaging practitioners and researcher together in diagnosing, intervening and reflecting to resolve the problems (Avison et al, 1999).

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