How to Protect a Child From an Abuser in Court

Sometimes it is necessary to have a child testify against an abuser in court. In addition, people accused of abuse have a constitutional due process right to confront their accusers in open court. However, a parent, guardian or even a lawyer might be reluctant to allow the child to?confront their abuser because it might do additional harm. What can be done in these?situations? A New Jersey law, N.J.S.A. 2A:84A-32.4, states that a child can testify in abuse and neglect proceedings via closed circuit television and out of the view ?of the defendant ?if the child

is 16 years of age or younger and that there is a substantial likelihood that the witness would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in open court.

In a recent case,?New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency v. C.W., an appeals court found that the trial court erroneously allowed a 17-year-old?child to testify?out-of-court. The appeals court also found that the trial judge failed to sufficiently make findings and explain why subjecting the child to?trial testimony in open court would create?a?substantial likelihood that the child?would suffer severe emotional or mental?distress.

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