How does the legal system respond when children with learning difficulties are victimized?
2006 (English)In: International Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect, ISSN 0145-2134, Vol. 30, no 5, 537-547 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Objective: To understand how the Swedish legal system perceives and handles mentally handicapped children who may have been victimized. Method: Twenty-two judicial districts in Sweden provided complete files on 39 District Court cases (including the Appeals Court files on 17 of these cases) involving children with learning difficulties or other handicaps as alleged victims of abuse, threat and neglect. The children (25 girls and 14 boys) averaged 11.8 years of age when first allegedly victimized. Sexual abuse was the most frequently alleged crime (33 cases). Court transcripts, court files and expert assessments of the alleged victims' handicaps and their possible consequences were examined to elucidate the ways in which courts evaluated the credibility of the alleged victims. Results: The children's reports of their victimization were expected to have the characteristics emphasized by proponents of Statement Reality Analysis (SRA) and Criterion Based Content Analysis (CBCA) in order to be deemed credible. Expert reports were seldom available or adequate. Because many reports were poorly written or prepared by experts who lacked the necessary skills, courts were left to rely on their own assumptions and knowledge when evaluating children's capacities and credibility. Conclusions: Children with learning difficulties or other handicaps were expected to provide the same sort of reports as other children. To minimize the risk that judgments may be based on inaccurate assumptions courts need to require more thorough assessments of children's limitations and their implications. Assessments by competent mental health professionals could inform and strengthen legal decision-making. A standardized procedure that included psycho-diagnostic instruments would allow courts to understand better the abilities, capacities, and behavior of specific handicapped children. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2006. Vol. 30, no 5, 537-547 p.
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-34230DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2005.10.015Local ID: 21049OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-34230DiVA: diva2:255078