A child is a person below the age of eighteen years. A witness is one who knows and has information about something or a series of events. A witness must be competent and mentally stable to testify.
Children are often protected by the law from any criminal responsibility and its effects. Children are presumed to be ignorant and oblivious of the importance and repercussions of court proceedings.
So, what happens in the event that in order to bring justice, child witnesses have to testify in court?
The courts of law will do anything in the process of dispensing justice to make sure that justice prevails; even if it involves letting child witnesses to testify.
There is a surgical process that is taken before a child is made to testify in court as explained below.
Before a child is made to testify in court, it will have to be proved that the child is equipped with sufficient knowledge about court etiquette like the danger of telling lies and the importance of telling the truth, understands the nature of oath, has sufficient knowledge to give reliable evidence and can distinguish between what is right or wrong.
This can be done by asking questions like “Do you know God? Do you pray? Do you go to church? If you tell lies what happens? If; let`s say the child knows telling lies is bad, makes God annoyed and he will go to hell for telling lies, then that child is fit to testify.
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After it is established then court will go ahead to let the child testify. A child needs to be put in a place where he is comfortable and can express himself freely.
A child is young and the general court room is too serious and tense for a child to testify freely. A child in most cases will testify in “chambers”.
Chambers meaning the judicial officers’ personal office, the court room is in most cases too packed, crowded and too tense for a child to freely talk. A child in mostly criminal cases will not testify in the presence of the accused person.
Writing to make it right, Lydia Etii Ajwang is a Lawyer in Private Practice.