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Sexual abuse cases in Swedish courts – what is required from preschoolers as witnesses?

Conference contribution
Authors Emelie Ernberg
Mikaela Magnusson
Sara Landström
Inga Tidefors
Published in The 9th annual conference of the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group (iIIRG), London, United Kingdom, June 22 - 24 2016
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Child sexual abuse, Children's testimony
Subject categories Psychology, Applied Psychology


Child sexual abuse (CSA) cases offer a considerable challenge for the court, as evidence other than the complainant’s testimony is rare. The court is faced with the task of evaluating the reliability of the testimony, a task that can be especially challenging when the complainant is a small child. Reliability assessments made by Swedish courts require a complainant’s testimony to be long, clear, coherent, logical, rich in detail and free from equivocal statements. Such criteria are difficult for preschoolers to fulfil, as they tend to provide brief testimonies and might be unable to describe the abuse in great detail. So far, no studies have been conducted as to what extent these criteria are being used to evaluate the testimonies of preschoolers, nor to how the assessment of these criteria affect the outcome in court. Court data from 197 CSA cases involving preschool-aged victims will be analyzed with respect to the use of said criteria. There will be an emphasis on the court’s assessments of the child interview and the child’s testimony, in order to see what is required from preschoolers as witnesses. The results will be presented in the light of current knowledge on preschoolers’ ability to testify.

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