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Child Witnesses

CHP13 

- Supreme Court of Canada
            As a result of recent rulings made in certain case law decisions a child’s testimony can be just as credible and reliable as that of an adult witnesses. Judges and juries are seen as competent to weigh the evidence and credibility of any witness, including children.

 

A Child’s Recall

 

-         Not capable to remember exact details

-         Observations are less accurate

-         Underdeveloped sense of time

-         Habit of omitting events that connect an entire offence

-         Not able to understand interviewer language

-         Underdeveloped speech abilities

 

R. v. Marquard

 

-         When evaluating credibility of children adult standards of accuracy should not be applied but the same standards of proof apply to both adults and children.

 

Other Investigative Factors to Consider

 

-         Child complainants & victims more accurate then child independent  witnesses

-         Younger children lack memory skills of older children

-         Contradictions or flaws in a child’s observations should not immediately reduce credibility

 

Cases of Sexual Assault

 

-         Children, generally, not capable of making up stories of sexual offences; don’t have prior knowledge of the nature of the act

 

Procedures at Trial for Sexual Assault Cases

 

-         Victim may give testimony out of sight

-         Motion by Crown to Judge (forms opinion)

-         Judge conducts a hearing

-         Crown may call witnesses, including expert

-         Defense allowed to cross-examine witnesses

-         Judge makes final ruling

 

 

 

Admissibility of Video Tape for Sex Offences

 

-         Offence must relate to Sexual Assault, Sexual Interference, Sexual Exploitation

-         Complainant/victim under age 18

-         Video taken shortly after offence

-         Contains description of the acts reported

-         Used in absence of child’s testimony but child victim subject to cross – examination

 

Informants

 

-         Definition – one who gives information/provides evidence

-         Criminals tell others about crimes committed

-         Classifications – eyewitness, corroborative witness, hearsay witness (short term &long term)

-         Not compelled to appear in court as witness


Importance of Informants

 

-         Most important part of a criminal investigation

-         Crimes solved in shorter length of time

-         Crimes prevented

 

When to Develop Informants

 

-         When communicating with known criminal during a routine traffic stop

-         Just after arresting/investigating an offender for another crime (after confession)

 

Evaluating Informant

 

-         Same methods as witness credibility evaluation (including motives)CHP12Pg178

 

Informant Motives

 

-         Motives measure strengths or weaknesses of credibility

-         Fear of offender

-         Bargaining

-         Need to express knowledge

-         Elimination of competition

-         Elimination of accomplices

-         Morals

-         Playing cop

-         Financial reward (Weak Credibility)

-         Combination of motives

-         Do not question informant about their motive

 

 

Confidentiality

 

-         Investigator must guard informant’s identity

-         More confidence in police officer, more information given by informant

 

Interviewing Informant’s

 

-         Same procedure as witness interviews

-         Purpose – to determine if informant took part in the crime, is falsely involving somebody else or telling the truth

 

Interview Questions

 

-         How come you were present during the crime or conversation? (with offender)

-         Where and when did the conversation take place?

-         What was said?

-         How did the conversation lead to the offender confessing about the crime?

-         Does the date, time and location lead you (investigator) to believe that:

a)      The informant was innocently present at the crime and did not participate;

b)      That they participated

c)      That they actually spoke to the offender after the crime

-         Who was present?

-         From whom did you receive the (hearsay) evidence?

-         Ask yourself (investigator) – How specific is the information?

 

Managing Informants

 

-         Objectives

-         officer and informant safety

-         Prevent offences by informant

 

Guidelines for Managing Informants

      -     Do not bargain with informants

-         No permission for “party to offence”

-         Require crown’s consent for withdrawing a charge

-         Never make promises

-         Don’t offer money

-         Don’t document informant name

-         Don’t act on information if only known by informant

-         Never let on you know other police officer’s informant identity

-         Meetings – police officers select location/time; avoid setting patterns; other police officer present?

-         Do not acknowledge informant if seen by accident

-         Code reliable informants

-         Complete informant debriefings

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