Discussions about child witness interviews during Australian trials of child sexual abuse

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In many jurisdictions, child witness interviews are pre-recorded and played in court as complainants’ evidence-in-chief in cases of child sexual abuse (CSA). The present study examined whether and how legal professionals discuss child witness interviews in the course of CSA trials. The trial transcripts of a sample of 85 child sexual abuse complainants (aged 6–17 years; 19 males) from three Australian jurisdictions were examined. Thematic analysis of all discussions between legal professionals about the child witness interview was conducted. Interviews were discussed for the majority (95.3%) of complainants. Three themes were identified: (1) problems with using the interviews as evidence-in-chief, (2) legal issues around the admissibility of interview topics and judicial directions, and (3) trial planning including availability of interview transcripts for jurors and the loss of recorded interviews. These results highlight the potential downstream effects that child witness interviews can have in CSA trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)938-952
Number of pages15
JournalPolice Practice and Research
Issue number1
Early online date10 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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