Prosecuting the child sex offender

This is a specialised training course for prosecutors working with sexual offences. The course specifically focuses on child victims of sexual abuse, but aims to provide the prosecutors with the skills to work with all child witnesses, including effective consultation and leading of the child’s evidence.

Target audience

The course is aimed at all prosecutors working with child witnesses, specifically child victims of sexual abuse.

Course content

The course comprises the following modules:

Model for Evaluating Children

This presentation will provide the participants with an understanding of the various factors involved when dealing with children in court and the need to adopt a holistic approach to children in the criminal justice system.

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. Participants are provided with actual court transcripts in order for them to identify the developmental difficulties children face in court.

The Effects of the Accusatorial System

Testifying in court is often a very stressful experience and there are a number of factors in the criminal justice process that give rise to this stress. 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.


Disclosing abuse is a process and this presentation focuses on the different stages of disclosure, highlighting issues relating to recantation and delayed disclosure.

The Impact of Childhood Trauma

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.

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.

Communicating with Children in a Forensic Environment

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.

Conducting a Victim-oriented Pre-trial Interview

The consultation between a prosecutor and a child witness is vitally important and can determine the outcome of a trial. This presentation provides information on the manner in which to conduct a pre-trial interview, the considerations that must be taken into account and the dangers involved.

The Use of Anatomically Detailed Dolls

Anatomically detailed dolls are scientific tools that are used in the course of interviews with child witnesses to enable them to clarify in a non-verbal manner what was done to them. This session highlights the research available on anatomical dolls and provides guidelines for their use.

Cross-examination of the Child Witness

Cross-examination is one of the most difficult aspects of the criminal trial for children. This presentation highlights the specific difficulties children have with cross-examination and the techniques that are used in cross-examination.

Sex Offenders

Research has identified various typologies which will be discussed here. Attention is paid to how sex offenders target and groom children with reference to theories and case studies.


This topic deals with the capacity of children’s memory and addresses questions relating to whether a child’s memory is as good as that of an adult, whether a child’s memory is reliable and what factors impact on memory.


This presentation will highlight the issues involved in determining the competency of child witnesses and enable participants to understand the implications of age on the competency requirements. The test for competency and its application will be explained and alternative tests for competency will also be introduced.

Opening and Closing Statements

The presentation will provide the participants with an understanding of the importance of using opening and closing statements in a trial as well as effective methods of doing so.

Leading Evidence

This presentation will focus on the techniques that can be used when leading the evidence of a child. The importance of preparing effectively for examination-in- chief is highlighted and information is provided on the structure of examination-in- chief as well as the dangers inherent in using leading questions.


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 a resource book entitled 'Prosecuting the Child Sex Offender'.

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