In the criminal investigation process, children are often required to testify about suspected sexual abuse and their evidence is often the key element of the investigation. It has therefore been necessary to implement developmentally adapted interview techniques specifically designed to elicit accurate information from children. In Portugal, there are currently no specified guidelines or interview protocols about the correct way to interview children in the judicial proceedings. The purpose of this project is to examine the way children are questioned about suspected abuse and describe current practices. This involves an analysis of “declarações para memória futura” - a process in which children are interviewed by a judge, prosecutor, and defence attorney. In doing so we well be able to make specific recommendations to improve current practices.
In Portugal, since 2007, a special proceeding of anticipated evidence called “Declarações para Memória Futura” (DMF) is mandatory for alleged victims of child sexual abuse. DMF is an interview conducted early in the investigation that can be used as evidence in court because it is conducted by a Judge. This procedure is designed to prevent children from being required to testifying court. The present study examines current practices surrounding DMF using a sample of 137 interviews with 3- to 17-year-oldsconducted in different judicial jurisdictions of Portugal.
The results showed that 97% of all questions asked in the interviews were problematic and would pose problems for children. Only 3% were developmentally appropriate open-ended prompts. This means that the vast majority of details provided by children were obtained from risky questions that could cause a level of contamination and decrease in the credibility of children's testimony. There is an urgent need to address this issue and consider the implementation of a structured scientifically validated interview protocol in Portugal.
|Short title||Interviews of Children in a Portuguese Judicial Special Procedure|