ERIC Number: ED328862
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1990-Aug-11
Reference Count: N/A
Mental Health Professionals as Expert Witnesses in Child Sexual Abuse Cases: A Legal Perspective on the Controversies.
Lloyd, David W.
For the past several years, mental health professionals have been asked to testify as expert witnesses in court cases involving child sexual abuse. There is much controversy within the mental health profession and law about the propriety of such expert testimony. The controversy consists of three main issues. The first issue, the conflict between law and psychology in general, relates to the legal system's narrow definition of relevancy with respect to evidence and the use of the adversarial system to introduce or counteract evidence. The second issue considers whether an expert opinion from a psychologist or other mental health professional is helpful in the determination of factual issues in the adjudicative phase of the legal proceedings. The answer to this question depends on the particular factual issue to be determined and the stage in the trial during which the opinion is given. The final issue focuses on whether the mental health professional is specially qualified to forensically determine whether a child has been sexually abused. All of the criteria for evaluating the truth of the allegation, whether they tend to support the credibility of the child's account or tend to detract from it, appear to suffer from various defects. Only if these controversies, combined with rigorous peer review, lead to better science will they have served a useful purpose. (NB)
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Expert Witness
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (98th, Boston, MA, August 10-14, 1990).