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Watch again the ABE Demonstration Video with Peter to see the phases of the interview: 

Welcome to the Achieving Best Evidence - Children Knowledge Bank 

In the ABE - Children Knowledge bank you can access excerpts from the course, related articles, and media that support the ABE Training. 
 
If you have any questions or need advice regarding ABE, Video Recorded Interviews and practice, contact us and we shall do our best to assist. 
 
 

Proper Prior Planning: 

All to often video recorded interviews of children that have been subjected to serious sexual violence are not doing what they set out to do - provide the Courts with the Best Evidence. In most cases this is because investigators have failed to adhere to the guidance and failed to plan the interviews properly. 
 
Increasingly it seems, Video recorded interviews are being conducted with children by the police with no support or engagement from Social Workers. The Guidance recommends joint interviews and it does not matter who "takes the lead". This is all a part of the planning process. This criticism is echoed in The Haughey Report reviewing the Modern Slavery Act 2015. 
 
The "Achieving Best Evidence in Child Abuse Cases - A Joint Inspection" (2014) report noted; 
 
"There were nine occasions where a Social Worker was present in the interview suite when a child was interviewed. In five of these, the Social Worker was present in the interview room as support but overall, inspectors found little evidence that Social Workers were involved in interviews with children. There were several reasons cited by police officers during interview, including: the lack of trained social workers, the movement or promotion of social workers once trained, and social workers’ lack of confidence even where they had been trained. This, in turn, was attributed to limited experience of interviewing. 
 
Local Authority areas where trained Social Workers conducted ABE interviews on a rota basis completed joint interviews more frequently." 
 
The Inspection report goes on to recommend;  
 
"Forces should review their current interview procedure with Children’s Social Care Services within their force area to ensure that it is in line with the Guidance. Where Social Workers are not regularly interviewing or monitoring interviews with children, arrangements need to be in place to ensure that they are still able to gather the information required to safeguard the child, without requiring the child to repeat their story.(Emphasis added).  
 
Read and download the full Joint Inspection Report Here. 
THE USE OF PLANNING INFORMATION - ABE S2.168  
 
The planning information should be used to: 
Set the objectives for the interview. 
Determine the techniques used within the phased interview. 
 
And decide: 
The means by which the interview is to be recorded. 
Who should conduct the interview and if anybody else should be present (including social support for the witness). 
If anybody should monitor the interview (e.g. investigating officer, supervising officer, specialist/interview adviser, etc.) and who will operate the equipment. 
The location of the interview. 
The timing of the interview. 
The duration of the interview (including pace, breaks and the possibility of more than one session). 
What is likely to happen after the interview. 

Intermediaries: 

Children are automatically eligible for "Special Measures". One such form of assistance is the Intermediary whose function is to communicate to the vulnerable witness, "questions put to the witness, and to any persons asking such questions, the answers given by the witness in reply to them, and to explain such questions or answers so far as necessary to enable them to be understood by the witness or person in question". This measure is also available to vulnerable adults (see the ABE Vulnerable Adults page). 
 
Procedural Guidance for Registered Intermediary practise is set out in the Registered Intermediary Procedural Guidance Manual (2012) published by the Ministry of Justice. The Manual sets out good practice and the procedure in detail.  
 
Depending on the stage of the proceedings, a registered intermediary is obtained either by the Police or by the Crown Prosecution Service, via the matching service which has been outsourced by the Ministry of Justice to the National Crime Agency. The NCA will not accept a referral directly from a witness. 
 
Witnesses called by the defence may also take advantage of the statutory scheme. This is not available to the defendant but the Court must ensure a fair trial so may allow the use of an intermediary to assist a defendant for any portion of the trial. That person is called a ‘non-registered intermediary’. The non-registered intermediary may be anyone who satisfies the court of their qualifications and suitability. 

The Relevance of ABE Video Recorded Interviews outside of the Criminal Courts: 

There is no longer a presumption that children will not give oral evidence in the Family Courts since Re:W (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 57. 
 
This was an appeal by a father against an order in care proceedings directing that his 14 year old step-daughter, who had made allegations of sexual abuse against him which were recorded by way of an ABE Interview, should not be called to give oral evidence to a Fact Finding Hearing. The Appeal was dismissed. The Supreme Court in Re:W said that, in principle, the approach used in criminal proceedings would apply in private law proceedings but pointed out specific risks to which a court must be alive in that context. 
 
In light of Re W, in deciding whether a child should give evidence, the court's principal 
objective should be achieving a fair trial. With that objective, the court should carry out a balancing exercise between the following primary considerations: 
 
i) The possible advantages that the child being called will bring to the determination of 
truth balanced against; 
 
ii) The possible damage to the child's welfare from giving evidence, i.e. the risk of 
harm to the child from giving evidence, having regard to amongst other things: 
 
The quality and reliability of the existing evidence. 
The quality and reliability of any ABE interview. 
Whether the child has retracted allegations. 
The nature of any challenge a party wishes to make. 
The age of the child. 
The maturity, vulnerability and understanding, capacity and competence of the child; this may be apparent from the ABE or from professionals discussions with the child. 
 

The first step in undertaking a RE:W Assessment is critical evaluation of the ABE Interview 

Intermediaries: "A Voice for The Vulnerable Witness" 

This CJS video explains and describes the role of the Registered Intermediary for young children and children with special needs. 

Provision of Therapy for Child Witnesses during Criminal Proceedings: 

There is a common assumption that children should not be offered therapeutic support when criminal proceedings for fear of contaminating or undermining the credibility of their evidence. This assumption is erroneous - it is vital that the child's welfare is the first concern and denial of therapy for a child that needs it clearly is not in their best interest. Witnesses are fundamental to the success of the criminal justice system. The Government, in its response to Sir William Utting's report "People Like Us", said it was determined to ensure that children and other vulnerable witnesses should be able to give their best evidence in criminal proceedings with the minimum of distress. 
 
Following the the report "Speaking Up For Justice" (1998) guidance on therapy for child witnesses prior to a criminal trial was developed and concluded that vulnerable or intimidated witnesses should not be denied the emotional support and counselling they may need both before and after the trial. 
 
The guidance is primarily for the assistance of Child Care Professionals and Lawyers involved in making decisions about the provision of therapeutic help for child witnesses prior to a criminal trial. The guidance makes it clear that the best interests of the child are paramount when deciding whether, and in what form, therapeutic help is given. 
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