Cautions

1. Never allow the child to discuss the specifics of his/her case.
• Rationale: It could be argued that a child’s evidence was contaminated through discussion of his/her testimony. During court preparation, if a child spontaneously discusses an offence, it is critical that the facilitator tactfully terminate that discussion.

2. Never identify where the accused will sit in the courtroom.
• Rationale: In court, the onus is on the child to identify the accused based on recognition and NOT because the child knows where the accused is expected to sit.

3. Do not allow any personal feelings to interfere with court preparation.
• Rationale: Any feelings that you have about child abuse, court or the fairness of the justice system will inevitably be communicated to the child witness. Make sure that any of your past personal or professional issues are satisfactorily resolved so that the session is neutral and objective in nature. Children generally want to please adults and they can be easily influenced. A child’s testimony can reflect prejudices picked up from the facilitators.

4. Never say anything derogatory about anyone, particularly the accused or the defence lawyer. Speak neutrally about everyone.
• Rationale: Your approach must be very professional, and should not prejudice the child in any way.

5. Do not make false promises.
• Rationale: Facilitators must not raise expectations that certain court procedures will result (ie: the screen being used) or that certain court outcomes will result (ie: a conviction of the accused). These types of decisions are the jurisdiction of the Crown prosecutor and the judge and are made on a case by case basis.

6. Do not make promises to a child such as indicating he/she will be taken out for lunch if he/she provides good testimony.
• Rationale: It could be argued that that these are inducements or bribes for the child to behave in a certain way. Simply tell the child to tell the truth and to do his/her best.

7. Do not counsel or provide therapy to a child.
• Rationale: It is easy to feel distressed that a child is the victim of a crime and must testify in court. Refer the child to appropriate treatment personnel if therapy is required. This is not a therapeutic program. Facilitators must retain their neutrality.
• If you are a child’s therapist, it is strongly suggested that someone else provide court preparation services for the child (ie: a reciprocal trade with another therapist.). If that is not possible, ensure that your court preparation sessions are clearly identified as such and do not blend into therapy sessions. If therapeutic issues arise, advise the child that you will deal with them in a future therapy session.

8. Do not identify body parts.
• Rationale: Children testifying in sexual abuse cases in particular must use their own words and must not be coached in this area whatsoever. A discussion of body parts is not appropriate as it can contaminate the child’s evidence and testimony.

9. Be aware that all documentation related to court preparation can legally be made available to the defence lawyers and the court.
• Rationale: All court preparation material can potentially be subpoenaed by the courts. Documentation should be completed in a professional manner and should deal primarily with court preparation strategies. Concerns about a child’s abilities should be discussed with police and Crown prosecutors verbally.