Special Measures in Child Sexual Abuse Trials: Criminal Justice Practitioners’ Experiences and Views
Special measures have been implemented across the globe to improve evidence procedures in child sexual assault trials. The present study explored the day-to-day experiences and views on their use by five groups of Australian criminal justice practitioners (N = 335): judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers, police officers and witness assistance officers. Most practitioners reported routine use of pre-recorded police interviews and CCTV cross-examination of child complainants, but rare use with vulnerable adults. Despite persistent technical difficulties and lengthy waiting times for witnesses, high consensus emerged that special measures enhanced trial fairness and jury understanding. The perceived impact of special measures on conviction rates diverged widely. Defence lawyers disputed that this evidence was as reliable as in-person testimony. All practitioner groups endorsed expanded use of expert witness evidence and witness intermediaries. Ongoing professional development in all practitioner groups will further enhance justice outcomes for victims of child sexual abuse.