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Expert Opinion Panel
Charles Pragnell - Expert Child Advocate

go to Charles Pragnell's Biography

Children are reliable and truthful
in their evidence of being abused

Charles Pragnell | 10 April 2013

Childrens issues in the Australian Family Courts  - Stock Photo

Eminent Child Advocate Charles Pragnell comments on

childrens issues in the Australian Family Courts...

The legal presumption in the Courts of Australia is that the evidence given by children is reliable and truthful. This is embodied in various ways in the Evidence Acts of the Commonwealth and the respective States and Territories.

The presumption is not rebuttable and only a judicial officer can determine whether the evidence given by a particular child or young person may not be reliable in a particular case.

This is best expressed in the New South Wales Evidence Act 1995 which states:

165A Warnings in relation to children’s evidence

(1) A judge in any proceeding in which evidence is given by a child before a jury must not do any of the following:

(a) warn the jury, or suggest to the jury, that children as a class are unreliable witnesses,

(b) warn the jury, or suggest to the jury, that the evidence of children as a class is inherently less credible or reliable, or requires more careful scrutiny, than the evidence of adults,

(c) give a warning, or suggestion to the jury, about the unreliability of the particular child’s evidence solely on account of the age of the child.

A similar caution is expressly stated in the Queensland Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1978 and the Criminal Code which "prohibits any judicial suggestion that a class of persons(child) are unreliable witnesses".

Courts cannot therefore presume that a child is not a reliable witness and by extension, any inquiries made prior to court proceedings by agencies reporting to the Courts must act and conduct themselves on the same presumption. E.g. when questioning a child regarding an allegation of sexual abuse of the child, it is therefore improper for police to suggest to a child that the child is lying, or has been 'coached' or told what to say.

This would also extend to any expert witness, social worker, legal officer, or Court Reporter who interviewed the child and gave evidence to the Court. Only if in the course of their inquiries should such persons making inquiries discover facts which may point to certain unreliabilities in the evidence of a child or young person, can they present such facts to the Court with an explanation as to why they consider such evidence to be unreliable.

They must constantly bear in mind that in Courts of law, it is the judicial officer who is the 'Trier of Fact' and this exclusive position must not be usurped or pre-empted in any way.

Charles Pragnell

Author bio

go to Charles Pragnell's Biography

Charles Pragnell is an independent Expert Defence Witness for Child Protection and has given evidence to courts in England, Scotland, and New Zealand. Since 1990 he has acted as an advocate/representative for children and families in child protection matters and other proceedings involving various state agencies. Since 1996 he has made special studies of issues involving Munchausen's Syndrome By Proxy, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Shaken Baby Syndrome read more...

Article Disclaimer: The views of authors on our website are not necessarily representative of those views of our website. Articles contain only general information, correct at the date of publication. For advice regarding your own personal circumstances, always seek individual advice from a qualified professional. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of Please read the complete Disclaimer here

What does it mean to be a single mum?Of course, the


are the most important thing in a single mum's life. Kids are the focus and always have been. But along with the children, there are other matters that can confuse a single mum's life.


plays a big part of a single mother's life, mainly because this is where a large percentage of single mums get their finances from. Centrelink are the source from where the

single mother pension

, or as it is otherwise known, the single parent payment comes from. The single mother pension is a subsistence amount, but just the same, it is money to live on, and so it is important, no matter if it is called single parent payment, single mother pension or whatever Centrelink welfare classes it at the time

Often, single mums come out of a


or defacto relationship only to find that their troubles have just begun, and find that their first step leads them towards Family Law - it's time to engage a lawyer.
There are more than just Centrelink finance problems to worry about, as mentioned before, but also

child custody

issues. Child custody is something that hits right at the heart of

single mums

. If a single mother's ex husband or ex partner has been a domestic violence perpetrator, the mum may be greatly worried about child custody. They worry that their kids won't be safe with their spouse, who has already proven to be abusive because they caused

domestic violence

, which resulted in a divorce or separation.

Even so,

Family Court

will often still order a form of child custody named

Shared Parenting

. Shared Parenting is a form of child custody division of time or parental responsibility between the parents. Mother's often look for a good divorce lawyer to try to avoid share parenting with an abusive ex-spouse after divorce, however in many cases Shared Parenting is still the outcome after the divorce, no matter how good the divorce lawyers have been. They will often settle for visitation at a contact centre or access centre where fathers or mothers are supervised during child custody access.

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