In Victoria, criminal cases may involve children as witnesses. A child under the law is regarded as an innocent and unreliable class of witness. And during the trial of the case before the jury, the sitting judge was previously prohibited to make any comments regarding this matter. However, the judge was not prevented to make any other comments in the interest of justice as provided under Evidence Act 1958 ss23 (2A), (2B)).
In the present courtroom scenario, the judge is now prohibited to give comments to the jury or suggesting to them that children testifying as witnesses is a class of unreliable witnesses or that children’s evidence must be given careful scrutiny compared with adult’s evidence or that they are being less credible or reliable. The judge is also prohibited to give directions that the evidence of the child witness is unreliable based solely on his or her age, or to suggest that there is danger to issue a verdict of “GUILTY” based on the uncorroborated evidence of the child witness. However, it was provided in the Evidence Act 2008 s165A (2) that if there are other circumstances which affect the reliability of the evidence of the child witness other than his or her tender age, then the judge may give an unreliability direction to the jury.
The law provides that the age of the witness is not a determining factor in his or her ability to give truthful and accurate evidence. Sometimes, children like adults may give truthful testimony, sometimes they may not be accurate and reliable.
Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.