Association between Interview quality and child sexual abuse trial outcome

Anne Sophie Pichler, Stefanie J. Sharman, Martine Powell, Nina Westera, Jane Goodman-Delahunty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Child witness interviews frequently comprise the central evidence in child sexual assault prosecutions. The aim of the present study was to explore the association between interview quality, interview inconsistencies raised during cross-examination, and trial outcome, while taking into account the strength of the prosecution case. Sixty-nine interviews of child complainants (56 female; aged 6–18 years) were coded for quality (proportion of open-ended questions, interviewer compliance with best-practice, and evidential categories sought). Corresponding trial transcripts were coded for indicators of case strength including number of victims and corroborating evidence (e.g., DNA, eyewitnesses). Cross-examination transcripts were coded for inconsistencies within the child witness interview or between this interview and another statement by the same complainant. After controlling for number of victims and corroborative evidence, interview quality was not associated with trial outcomes. The strongest predictor of verdict was the number of victims: the greater the number of victims, the more likely the defendant was to be convicted of at least one count. The number of inconsistencies was marginally associated with outcome: the greater the number of inconsistencies, the more likely the defendant was to be acquitted. The findings highlight the importance of examining the trial as a whole when investigating the relationship between the child witness interviews and the legal process. Future studies are necessary to replicate these findings, ideally with interviews ranging in quality on key indicators of best-practice interviewing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-403
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Family Violence
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2019


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