Interviews of Children in a Portuguese Special Judicial Procedure

Carlos Eduardo Peixoto, Raquel Veludo Fernandes, Telma Sousa Almeida, Júlia Marina Silva, David la Rooy, Catarina Ribeiro, Teresa Magalhães, Michael Lamb

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Abstract

Since 2007, alleged victims of child sexual abuse in Portugal provide evidence in a mandatory “Declarações para Memória Futura” (DMF; English trans. ‘Statement for future use’) proceeding. In order to protect children from having to testify in court, interviews conducted at the DMF can later be used as trial evidence because the hearings are conducted by judges. The present study examined 137 interviews with 3 to 17-year-olds conducted in several Portuguese criminal courts. Detailed examination of interview transcripts showed that 69% of all questions asked were option-posing questions, 16% were directive questions, 11% were suggestive questions, and only 3% were open-ended prompts. The vast majority of details provided by children were thus obtained using the risky recognition-based prompts (i.e., option posing and suggestive questions) associated with the risks of contaminating and limiting children’s informativeness, both potential threats to the credibility of their testimony. There is an urgent need to address this issue and consider the implementation of a scientifically validated structured interview protocol in Portugal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-203
Number of pages15
JournalBehavioral Sciences and the Law
Volume35
Issue number3
Early online date29 Mar 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017

Keywords

  • Forensic Interview; Question Types; Child Abuse; Legal Professionals; Portugal

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