Testifying on Behalf of Children - A Handbook for Canadian Professionals

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Testifying On Behalf Of Children

A Handbook for Canadian Professionals

By: Robin Vogl and Nick Bala

Written by lawyers with extensive experience in the fields of child protection and family law, this book provides a practical guide to the Canadian legal system, the court process and testifying in court.

ISBN 978-1-55077-126-8
Edition First
Year 2001
Page Count 150

$ 19.95


When you are called to testify in a case involving a child, you are participating in a process that may have an irreversible impact upon that child's future. By acquiring the knowledge and skills to ensure that you are an effective witness, you may help to prevent harm to a child who has already suffered at the hands of an adult, or prevent harm of other children in the future. In some cases, you may help to ensure that the court does not make an inappropriate finding of abuse or neglect.

Written by lawyers with extensive experience in the fields of child protection and family law, this book provides a practical guide to the Canadian legal system, the court process and testifying in court. While police officers and others regularly involved in court proceedings will find it helpful, it will be especially useful to those who only occasionally enter the courtroom world such as child-protection workers, social workers, teachers, doctors and other health-care professionals, counselors, shelter workers, psychologists, daycare, childcare or nursery school personnel, and members of the clergy.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Legal System

  • The Sources of Law
  • The Court Structure
  • Kinds of Legal Proceedings
  • Criminal Law Enforcement
  • Civil Proceedings
  • The Legal Actors
  • Fundamental Fairness
Chapter 2: Learning How Lawyers Think and Act
  • How can a lawyer represent a person who has allegedly abused a child?
  • How can a lawyer help an accused person who appears guilty deny his guilt?
  • Why does the defense counsel seem so aggressive compared to the Crown or agency lawyer
  • Do lawyers have any responsibility to the court?
  • Do lawyers for parents have any responsibilities to children?
  • Who makes the decisions about how a case, the lawyer or the client?
  • Must a lawyer keep a client's secrets?
  • Do lawyers have a duty to report child abuse?
  • Will the lawyer who calls me as a witness act as my lawyer?
  • What can I expect from the lawyer who represents a child in the proceedings?
  • Why do lawyers on the opposite side of a case refer to each other as "my friend"?
  • Why do lawyers spend so much time arguing in court?
  • Do all cases proceed to the trial stage?
Chapter 3: Confidentiality and the Disclosure of Information by Professionals
  • The Duty to Report Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect
  • Records and Documents
  • Consent to Disclose Information
  • Release of Information in Response to Search Warrant or Court Order
  • Responding to a Subpoena or Summons
Chapter 4: Trial Procedure
  • Introduction of the Parties
  • Clarification of Positions
  • The Applicant's Case
  • The Respondent's Case
  • Reply Evidence
  • Submissions
  • Judgment
  • A Note on Criminal Trials
Chapter 5: The Rules of Evidence
  • Issues of Fact and Issues of Law
  • Relevance
  • Weight and Admissibility of Evidence
  • Prejudice and Fairness
  • Types of Evidence
  • Oral Testimony
  • Documentary Evidence
  • Real and Demonstrative Evidence
  • Exclusionary Rules of Evidence
  • The Hearsay Rule
  • Exceptions to the Hearsay Rule: Statutory and Common Law
  • Business Records
  • Official Documents
  • Medical and Psychological Reports
  • Common Law Exceptions to the Hearsay Rule
  • Admissions by a Party
  • Accusations made in the Presence of a Party
  • "Necessity" and "Reliability": Children's Disclosures of Abuse
  • Counseling Records of a Victim of Sexual Offences
  • Opinion Evidence
  • Privilege
  • Video and Audiotapes
Chapter 6: Testifying In Court
  • Preparing For Court
  • Start with Your Notes
  • Your Notes (For Taking to the Witness Stand)
  • Contacts with the Child or Caregivers
  • Contacts with Other Professionals
  • Using Your Notes While Testifying
  • Meeting with the Lawyers in Advance of Court
  • Written Summary
  • Examination-in-Chief (or Direct Examination)
  • Some Tips for Coming to Court & Examination-in-Chief
  • Cross-Examination
  • Tips For Handling Cross-Examination
  • Testifying as an Expert
  • Why Testify as an Expert?
  • What are the Disadvantages of Testifying as an Expert?
  • How do I get "Qualified" as an Expert?
  • Some Words of Caution for the Expert Witness
A Concluding Thought: The Importance of Court

About the Authors

Robin Vogl, LL.B.

Robin Vogl, LL.B., now a lawyer in private practice, was Counsel to the Simcoe County Children's Aid Society from 1991–99 and previously worked as Senior Counsel for the Children's Aid Society of Metro Toronto. She also worked previously as a Youth Court Prosecutor, and as a consultant to the Institute for the Prevention of Child Abuse, the Metropolitan Toronto Special Committee on Child Abuse, and the Ministry of Community and Social Services. She co-authored Canadian Child Welfare Law (Thompson Educational Publishing).

Nicholas Bala
Queen's University

Nicholas Bala, B.A., LL.B., LL.M., is a Professor in the Faculty of Law at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. He has published extensively about legal issues related to child abuse, divorce and young offenders, including co-authoring Canadian Child Welfare Law (Thompson Educational Publishing). He is frequently interviewed by the media, and his work has often been cited by the courts.