Preparing children for court

This is a specialised training course, based on the standardized programme researched and developed by the Institute, for all role-players involved in preparing child witnesses for court.

Target audience

The course is specifically designed for all role-players involved in preparing child witnesses for court, including police officials, prosecutors, non-governmental organisations and other organisations. This is a train-the-trainer course and, therefore, aims to provide these role-players with the specialised skills to prepare rape survivors effectively, professionally and timeously for their court appearance and testimony. This will ensure that these survivors are empowered to deal with testifying in criminal court and provide more effective testimony that will leave them with a sense of achievement and closure.

Course content

The course includes the following modules and practicals:

An Introduction to Child Development

Participants are introduced to issues relating to child development that are applicable to the child witness, including, cognitive development and socio-emotional development.

Talking to Children

The focus of this topic is on equipping the participants with the skills to communicate with children and understand child language, with special emphasis on language miscommunication that arises in the forensic context.

The Criminal Justice System

As court preparation involves explaining to witnesses how the legal system works, it is essential that participants have knowledge and understanding of the criminal justice system. This presentation provides an overview of the criminal justice system for the lay person.

The Effects of Testifying

This presentation examines the factors that create particular difficulties for children in the criminal justice process as well as the available research on the stress experienced by children.

Online Sexual Offending

Online sexual offending takes many forms and this unit will examine the various forms this offence takes, including the possession and distribution of child pornography, the production of child pornography, sexual solicitations, and conspiracy crimes.

Impact of Child Abuse

Child abuse, whether physical, emotional or sexual has a severe impact on its victim. This presentation examines the effect which abuse has on children and methods of assessing trauma.

Children’s Perceptions of the Court

This presentation will provide the participants with the knowledge necessary to understand the way in which children view the legal world. Participants will be provided with information about the fears children experience about going to court and how these fears impact on the child’s ability to give effective evidence.

Use of Media and Activities

This presentation aims to provide participants with the necessary skills to offer court preparation and examines issues relating to the location and timing of programmes as well as the use of activities, ice-breakers, games and worksheets to convey the content to children.

The Need for Court Preparation

This session provides the legal context for court preparation and examines the contents of international programmes as well as the available research on this topic.

Module 1

This module includes the following topics: ice-breakers; why do people have to go to court; feelings about going to court; the concept of rights; the rights of the accused; the rights of the child; the journey to court; and how do people feel about going to court.

Module 2

This module includes the following topics: who’s who in the courtroom; the court teams; what do people wear in court; and taking care of me.

Module 3

This module includes the following topics: what does the courtroom look like; where to find the people in the court; what do courtrooms feel like; the special courtroom; and taking care of me.

Module 4

This module includes: what happens in the courtroom; the trial timeline; the magistrate’s decision; types of decisions and their effects; types of punishment; a guilty plea; and taking care of me.

Module 5

This module includes: the allocation of roles; the courtroom; the jobs; the role-play; and debriefing.

Module 6

This module includes: the concept of right and wrong; the concept of truth and lies; the motivation to tell the truth; the oath; the consequences of lying; and taking care of me.

Module 7

This module includes: my job in court; telling the truth; listening to the questions; answering the questions; kinds of questions and how to answer them; things that can happen in court; and court etiquette.

Module 8

This module includes: my day in court; waking up on my court day; going to court; meeting the prosecutor; telling my story in court; going home; and taking care of me.

Module 9

This module includes: the allocation of roles; the courtroom; the jobs; the role-play; and debriefing.

Module 10

This module deals with what happens after the process of testifying and includes debriefing.

Parent Programme

This session focuses on the presentation of a preparation programme to parents or caregivers. It explores the emotional state of the parent or caregiver and the assistance they require in supporting their child through the criminal justice process.

Implementation Issues

This session involves a discussion of implementation issues relating to court preparation programmes, such as the timing of programmes and the location as well as issues relating to the entrenchment of programmes within government.


The course is presented over a four-and-a-half day period from 08H30 until 17H00, and 13H00 on the final day. Each participant receives a training course file containing the course content, which is divided according to the topics covered on each day. In addition, each participant receives all the tools and materials, including the researched programme, to be able to prepare children for court. Finally, all the participants receive a handbook entitled 'Preparing Children for Court: A Handbook for Practitioners'.

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