“Each time I had to recount what happened, I would go through the same agony. If I could retract my complaint I would have.” These were the words of Janah (an alias name) told to her lawyer after going through a series of procedures including giving her testimony of the sexual abuse she was subjected to.
“The problem is that talking needs details… in front of the police… the public prosecutor… and then at court, and of course the forensic doctor. I used to feel so ashamed, nervous and anxious. I used to get confused and forget a lot”, added 15 year old Janah.
Although testifying of victims in abuse cases are of great importance to achieve justice, the burden of recounting the events by the child victim causes grave psychological impacts which prompted relevant authorities to search for alternatives to ease the pressure and provide a safe and friendly environment for children during interrogation and trial, said Head of Legislation Development Unit at NCFA, Naela As-Sarayrah.
“Because of this, NCFA has organized in cooperation with the Judicial Council and the Public Security Directorate a training workshop on the enforcement of judicial police officers to hear child testimony based on a judicial delegation through the activation of Article 92 of The Criminal Procedures Law”, As-Sarayah told AL-Ghad.
Article 92 in The Criminal Procedures Law stipulates that “The public prosecutor has the right to delegate one of the conciliation court judges or another public prosecutor who is working in his/her area of jurisdiction to conduct one of the investigation’s procedures in the areas which fall within the jurisdiction of the delegated judge. He/she also has the right to delegate one of the judicial police officials to conduct any investigation procedure except the interrogation of the defendant”. The law also states that “The delegated judge or judicial police officer shall assume the functions of the public prosecutor in relation to the acts defined in the delegation memo.”
“By virtue of this Article, video recording technology will be commenced through which the Family Protection Department employee delegated by the public prosecutor will record the testimony so that s/he (the public prosecutor) can hear the testimony later on and spare the child the burden of repeating his/her testimony again”, added Sarayrah.
“Activating this technology will comfort the child”, continued Sarayrah, noting that “for the time being, child testimonies are heard by the police, public prosecutors and judges, but with the activation of the technology, the child will testify before the police and the judge only”.
“If the public prosecutor feels the needs for further clarification, s/he can request the presence of the victim to hear his/her testimony to complete the investigation”, illustrating that “hearing testimonies through a legal delegate is very important as it facilitates the testimonies of child victims or witnesses, creates a conducive environment, enhances the chances of a just trial and restoration of rights and strengthens coordination and partnerships among the relevant actors through the activation of the use of CCTV technology in police departments and public prosecution offices”.
Sarayrah stressed that “the activation of this technology complies with Article 12 of the new Protection against Family Violence Law”, which she said is part of the process of harmonizing procedures contained in the new protection law and helps to institutionalize work in the area of family protection at the national level.
Article 12 of the new law stipulates that “the public prosecutor or the competent court, where necessary, shall use the new technology, if available, so as to protect the victim who has not completed 18 years of age or the juvenile witness during testimony hearings, deliberation, and cross-examination provided that these means should enable any opponent to cross-examine the juvenile or witness in court during trial.”
In one of the papers discussed in the workshop, Head of the Family Protection Department Colonel Fakhri Al-Qatarneh shed light on Jordan’s experience with regard to recorded interviews stressing the importance of child testimonies.
Qatarneh said that “child testimonies have a serious impact on the process of justice as it is based on pure psychological factors including cognitive awareness of the facts of the crime, their storage in memory and then their retrieval”, illustrating that “in crimes committed against children, the information obtained professionally after interviewing the child victim has a great impact on finding evidence in most investigations.”
“In the majority of laws, child testimonies at a certain age are taken for evidentiary purposes only, meaning that they are not enough to prove guilt, but they have to be corroborated with other evidence”, added Qatarneh.
“The investigator should not neglect hearing the child’s testimony himself/herself, and s/he should be very careful with it and try as much as possible to filter out any attempt to exaggerate or overdraw and connect it with physical facts that support its authenticity and credibility”, continued Qatarneh.
Another paper was presented by Psychologist Dr. Atef Shawashreh on the psychological and social impacts of recorded interviews on abused children.
In his paper, Shawashreh pointed out that “the use of this technique helps to avoid the storage of traumatic experience in the long-term memory and also saves from low self-esteem, degradation, and prolonged post-traumatic stress”.
“This technology helps to avoid the problem of memory loss due to the time factor and weariness because of repetition”, added Shawashreh.
Judge Ashraf Al-Abdullah supported the idea of the written delegation of law enforcement officers to depose children using the new technology whereby the preliminary investigation stage is replaced by an initial investigation stage which can be carried out by law enforcement officers. The public prosecutor can also depose the child directly without the need for initial statements presented before a law enforcement officer.
Al-Abdullah directed attention to the recent amendment to the Criminal Procedures Law which allows the hearing of child testimonies via this new technology at the discretion of the public prosecutor and the court but makes it obligatory if the child is a victim of indecent assault.
He considered that “the legislature’s intention from the use of the new technology with children is to protect them physically and psychologically by keeping them away from any sense of threat from the person they are testifying against and avoiding any confrontation with the abuser particularly with regard to sexual cases and sparing them the burden of repeating the details of the attack several times in front of several parties.”