The IUP Journal of Law Review
Competency of Children as Witnesses: A Critical Analysis from the Perspective of Child Psychology

Article Details
Pub. Date : July 2021
Product Name : The IUP Journal of Law Review
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJLR40721
Author Name : Subhash Chandra Singh
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : Arts & Humanities
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No. of Pages : 21

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Abstract

This paper examines the logic of both psychology and law with regard to the question of child evidence. Based on what psychology teaches and what law requires, it recommends approaches for lawyers questioning child witnesses in court. Available psychological research shows that children can be best witnesses when their special needs are understood. Necessarily, compromising must be made, and what seems most sensible to psychologists is often trumped by the requirements of the law. Nevertheless, understanding both psychology and law enables law practitioners to avoid needless mistakes. Children testifying in court are perceived to have limited memory, communication skills, and greater suggestibility than adults. When children are involved in trials as witnesses, judges must decide whether they are credible and how to weigh their testimony in reaching a verdict. Thus, although much psychological research focuses on the actual accuracy of children's testimony, it is also important to consider their perceived accuracy.


Introduction

Witnesses form an integral part of criminal justice system. They shed light on various events and circumstances which help the court to reach a conclusive finding beyond reasonable doubt. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 does not prescribe any particular age as a determinative factor to treat a witness to be a competent one. The penal rule that exempts a child from culpability in any crime due to lack of sufficient intelligence is not applicable in law of evidence relating to competency of witnesses. In the courtroom, the witness is viewed as a source of information. The court needs to access the information from the witness in its most accurate form to make a decision as to the conviction or acquittal of the accused. However, it is not only the information that the witness has to provide that is important, but also the way in which the information is presented. The courts must be convinced that the witness is credible, i.e., that it can believe the evidence of the witness. The court needs to be convinced that the witness is telling the truth. When it comes to the evidence of children though, the courts have a number of difficulties to overcome.


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