Witnesses with intellectual disabilities in court: what questions are asked and what influence do they have?

Kebbell, Mark R., Hatton, Christopher, and Johnson, Shane D. (2004) Witnesses with intellectual disabilities in court: what questions are asked and what influence do they have? Legal and Criminological Psychology, 9 (1). pp. 23-25.

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Purpose. To identify the ways in which witnesses with and without intellectual disabilities are examined in court. Specifically to identify what questions are asked and what influence they have.

Methods. Court transcripts were obtained for 16 rape, sexual assault or assault trials involving witnesses with intellectual disabilities and 16 matched cases involving witnesses from the general population. The cases were assessed systematically concerning the questioning strategies of lawyers and the influence of those strategies on witness responses.

Results. Questioning of witnesses with intellectual disabilities was almost identical to that of witnesses from the general population indicating that lawyers are not altering their questioning behaviour for witnesses with intellectual disabilities, either positively or negatively. Cross-examination is particularly poor for eliciting accurate memory reports, especially for witnesses with intellectual disabilities. The accounts of witnesses with intellectual disabilities are shorter and more likely to agree with a leading question than are accounts from the general population.

Conclusion. The way in which witnesses are examined does little to ensure that their memories are as accurate as possible. People with intellectual disabilities should be questioned in such a way that their ability to give accurate evidence in court is maximized.

Item ID: 13914
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2044-8333
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2011 05:31
FoR Codes: 17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170113 Social and Community Psychology @ 50%
18 LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES > 1801 Law > 180120 Legal Institutions (incl Courts and Justice Systems) @ 49%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences @ 100%
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