chapter  8
16 Pages

Visualising children’s credibility: the role of the visual in psychological research and child witness practice


This chapter explores the role of the visual in legal practice and psychological research, focusing on issues of children’s memory and testimony in the context of child abuse investigations. Reporting experiences and findings from a research project that compared child witness practice in England/Wales and Germany (Motzkau, 2007a ), the chapter illustrates how the visual asserted itself throughout the research process, emerging as an important and often equivocal arbiter within practices negotiating children’s memory and credibility. It is outlined how the effect of the visual ambiguously shapes children’s experience of giving evidence and the conditions under which the credibility of their statements is assessed. The chapter focuses in particular on the role of video technology, introduced in the UK as part of special measures to provide better access to justice for children and vulnerable witnesses. Drawing on courtroom observations and data from interviews with legal professionals, it is illustrated how in practice the video asserted itself as a participant, an autonomous proxy-witness with a gaze and an ambiguous voice of its own.