The 'Good Practice Guide for Children's Hearing' suggests, on the basis of evidence, a set of guidelines to take into account when hearing a child or young person in court, in itself a delicate situation due to the negative implications that poor hearing can have on children. Its usefulness applies to the various actors - judges, prosecutors, lawyers, psychologists, etc. - seeking to create a joint reflection on child-friendly practices and procedures and aiming to minimize the harm that may result from such a situation (e.g. re-victimization).
Rute Agulhas and Joana Alexandre, researchers at CIS-IUL, are the authors of this Guide and divide it into parts considering the incontrovertible variables of the hearing process: the child, the interviewer, the context of the interview and the surrounding environment where it occurs.
In short, we can anticipate that children and young people should be heard in a physical space that is welcoming and gives them a sense of security, trying to involve as few adults as possible, and conditions that foster communication and spontaneous narrative by the child, without external interference. The importance of a good interview, designed in a semi-structured way, should be carried out in stages, with questions more open at the beginning and more closed in the heart of the interview, ending with a summary and neutral aspects. As Rute Agulhas says 'After a hearing the child may feel valued and protected or, on the contrary, battered and victimized. The child may experience positive or negative emotions. Much depends on how this process of hearing was conducted.'
Truth is the most important message to pass on to the child, so this should not be suggested 'e.g. he took you into the room, didn’t he?', The interview must also be led with questions also appropriate to age, level of development and maturity. It is also important that the child knows the limits of confidentiality.
This Guide allows us to retain important rules about 'what to do', 'how to', but also - and not least - 'what not to do'!
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