Regional court magistrates’ recommendations for improving the efficacy of taking statements from children

Authors Hendrik Lochner & Juanida Horne

ISSN: 1996-2118
Affiliations: NDip (Pol) (Technikon SA) NDip (Security Management) (Technikon SA) BTech (Policing) BTech (Security Management) MTech (Forensic Investigation) DLitt et Phil (Unisa); Senior Lecturer, Department of Police Practice, Unisa; NDip (Pol) (Technikon SA) BTech (Policing) MTech (Forensic Investigation) DLitt et
Phil (Unisa); Senior Lecturer, Department of Police Practice, Unisa
Source: South African Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 32 Issue 2, p. 202 – 222

Abstract

National Instruction 3/20081 of the South African Police Service recognises the fact that taking children’s statements (irrespective of whether they are victims of, or witnesses to, a crime) is a challenge requiring special skills. There are thus well-documented instructions, guidelines and prescriptions for taking written statements from children who are victims of crime. The purpose of the research on which this article is based was to indicate, from the point of view of a criminal investigator, crucial aspects that are not covered in the Standing Orders2 of the South African Police Service or National Instruction 3/2008, and to support these with empirical evidence and references from the literature. Taking a witness statement from a child does not happen in a vacuum, and the investigating officer who performs this task is central to the investigation of the reported case and its successful prosecution. In this article, the authors examine and report on the requisite skills, make recommendations and identify aspects which regional court magistrates consider when evaluating children’s evidence based on their witness statements.