DEVELOPING A PROTOCOL FOR
INVESTIGATIONS IN MVMO CASES
SUGGESTED BEST PRACTICE MODEL FOR THE PRE-INVESTIGATION STAGE
SUGGESTED BEST PRACTICE MODEL FOR THE INVESTIGATION STAGE
"HOW TO APPROACH THE TOPIC OF SEXUAL ABUSE AND WHAT TO SAY IF YOUR CHILD DISCLOSES"
(A HANDOUT FOR PARENTS)
DEALING WITH PARENTAL INTERFERENCE
It struck me last night as I began to write this report, that when all is said and done nearly a decade will have passed since the first child's disclosure and the beginning of the "Ellis" investigation. The magnitude of the impact on everyone involved has not escaped me. My role of providing a clinical opinion so many years after the fact on whether or not there were features of the investigation and or the interviews of the children which may have affected the reliability of the children's evidence and impacted on the convictions at trial, is testimony to the highly confliclual views that existed then, and still exist today alive with respect to what happened at the Civic Creche, and how the matter was investigated.
The discovery of child sexual abuse affects us all deeply, and the personal costs of investigating and prosecuting child victimization is high for everyone involved. I have no doubt that this was particularly true for the individuals who were swept up in this experience. l have spent over seventy hours viewing the videotaped child interviews, reading and rereading the evidence proffered at the depositions hearing and at the trial. I feel as though I have been transported back in time, totally immersed in this case as a silent observer. I have given great thought to this report, and appreciate its importance. I hope that what I have to offer in the way of an opinion is helpful in this inquiry, and provides insight into methodology and procedures which will be of assistance in the future with similar cases of such dimension.
February 23, 2001
Multiple victim child sexual abuse is defined as the sexual abuse of numbers of children by the same offender or by a group of offenders. In such cases, the abuse typically spans many months or even years and frequently victimizes children from many different sectors of a community. There are a number of different types of multi victim cases that have been identified in the clinical literature. Although the types are not necessarily always mutually exclusive, it is important to appreciate their particular characteristics.
Residential abuse is defined as a pattern in which abusive activities are focussed within institutional and residential schools where children and offenders reside together. In Canada there have been a number of notorious residential abuse cases, the most highly publicized case is the abuse of young boys in the early 1970's by Christian brothers in Mount Cashel Orphanage in Newfoundland (Hughes, 1991). This case came to light in the last ten years.
Abuse within the context of a sex ring is yet another type which has been well described by Burgess and Grant (1988) in their evaluation of children traumatized by sexual exploitation. Their analysis determined that this pattern of abuse involves many distinct levels; "'solo rings" in which there is one offender and a series of victims; "transition rings" in which there are multiple offenders and multiple victims and the exchange of children and pornography; and finally "syndicated sex rings" which are organizational structures that recruit children, produce pornography, deliver sexual favours, make a profit, and have an established network of customers, many of whom come from a long distance.
As a researcher in "Project Guardian" (Sas, and Hurley, 1997 ) which was a multi victim multi offender case in London, Ontario where I live (60 young boys aged 8 to 17 and 80 adult male offenders), I developed an understanding of how child sexual abuse is perpetrated within the contest of sex rings. I also learned how difficult it is to conduct an investigation of such proportions. 1 discovered that dealing with the media hype surrounding Project Guardian, the challenge of interviewing reluctant victims who did not want to disclose despite being captured on pornographic videos, and the task of organizing the massive amount of evidence in the case, demanded a high level of expertise. There were literally hundreds of interviews.
Abuse within the context of ritualistic related activities is another major type described in the literature, and likely the most controversial. Abuse in this category is differentiated by the fact that the abusive activities are said to be linked in some way to organized/systematic abusive practices which often include sadistic, intimidating acts that can indoctrinate, injure and frighten child victims. Hundreds of children and indeed many adults have reported abuse involving multiple perpetrators. inter-generational cults, and quasi-religious rituals complete with human sacrifice, graveyard ceremonies, cannibalism, consumption of blood, urine and excrement (Bottoms, Shaver, and Goodman 1996; Sakheim, and Devine, 1992). However acceptance of the existence of such abuse has divided the professional community. Five years ago, Bottoms et al. (1996) completed a survey study of cases involving alleged ritualistic and religion-based abuse referred to psychologists in the US. They concluded that although many of the acts of child abuse reported did qualify as `ritualistic', they were in actuality simply examples of pure sadism. Highly organized inter-generational international satanic cults were not believed to exist.
The "Prescott case" which occurred in a small town in south eastern Ontario Canada was the closest example of a multi victim multi offender ritualistic abuse case in Canada (Blishen and Gummer, undated). I had the opportunity to consult with the investigation team around court preparation of the some of the child witnesses. The case involved horrendous forms of sexual abuse of very young children who had disclosed when they were apprehended and placed in foster care. There was both intra familial as well as extra familial abuse in that case. The evidence involved bizarre settings for sexual abuse such as grave yards, stories of cruelty, forced ingestion of unknown materials and even witnessed animal killings. By 1989, there were at least twenty children and ten adults said to be involved, as the initial children identified others who had also been abused.
The last major type of multi victim child abuse case identified in the literature has been described as community-centred abuse, in which sexual abuse is planned/directed and practised by one offender or a small group of supporting offenders in a community. This type of abuse is usually centred in the offender's own residence, or at the offender's place of employment (school daycare, camp etc). Many children can be involved as victims in such a case as there is easy and legitimate access of the offender to the child victims. The child victims are easily manipulated and are sexually exploited by the offenders within the care-taking role, as the offenders use their position of trust and their relationship with the children to abuse them. In examing the evidence in the Ellis case, it appears that it most closely resembles the community centered type of multi child victim case. However, there (ire some allegations in the Ellis case which came to light which may suggest that there could also have been a - 'sex ring' of sorts involving at the very least pornography, and potentially sadistic even ritualized abuse practices with respect to some child victims.
Mounting an investigation in a multi-victim multi offender case involves significant challenges. Because of the complexity of the inter-relationships between victims and offenders, investigations which involve numerous child victims are compounded by special issues which may never arise in single offender single victim cases.
The initial challenge in my view once the first disclosure is made, is the task of identifying the pool of potential child complainants, if indeed there is a pool. If we can accept findings in the literature which suggest that most pedophiles ( or pederasts) offend against large numbers of children, then the assumption that there are other child victims beyond the first child that has disclosed, is reasonable. However to automatically take the position that there are always multiple child victims can be dangerous as well.
The inherent difficulty for police in identifying the pool of potential child victims, is that it is almost impossible to do so without causing heightened concern in individuals whose children could be affected. Panic may result in some parents causing them to act inappropriately. Suspicion and negative feelings towards an identified accused person that are generated as rumors fly, can create an environment which makes it diffcult to maintain the integrity of the investigation. However even in such a climate, it must be said that the majority of parents do not want to find out that their children have been abused, and it is this reluctance to uncover abuse which can help to balance out the over reaction of the more hysterical parents.
In any event, one question that must always be answered in any multi-victim multi offender case where the majority of complainants have made "confronted disclosures", is whether there are some individual cases which are suspect, influenced by what can best be described as a `contagion effect'. In an MVMO case, it may be possible that a small group parents of complainants or even just one individual can contaminate the evidence gathered in an investigation through their misguided actions (by spreading false rumors, and generally influencing the course of events).
The scope and identity of the complainant population in a MVMO case is determined by the "flood of referrals" which snowballs once the information has leaked that there has been a disclosure. Therefore what transpires after the first disclosure is very important in determining how things will eventually play out. The threat of contamination of children's evidence outside the interview room is always there. This is more likely to occur when there is residential proximity between witnesses and existing prior relationships. The urge on the part of the parents of child complainants to talk to each other about the case and to compare notes is powerful, but can present problems later on and result in challenges in court over contamination. A common Defense accusation is that complainant families through their emotional support of each other and informal sharing of information discussions, can create false disclosures in children. Although this criticism can be totally uncalled for the possibility needs to be considered in every case.
The next challenge is to respond appropriately once the pool of children become identified, and to interview what may be large numbers of children in a timely fashion, in order to determine if they have suffered any abuse. Obtaining accurate information from children in investigative interviews is critical, and forms the foundation upon which the case will rest: Great care must be exercised to follow accepted practice for forensic interviews of children, especially when some children may be very young and more susceptible to suggestion.
It is true that the integrity of a case rests heavily on the quality of the interviews that are carried out, and the neutrality of the interviewers. Maintaining an open mind as more and more children disclose is difficult, but each child's disclosure information must be examined for individual as well as combined reliability.
Another issue which must be dealt with is the media attention, which is more characteristic of a MVMO case than a single victim single offender case(unless the individuals are famous or the circumstances unusual). Handling the media interest in such a case is tricky. Pagnello (1992) described the Prescott investigation as managing in a fishbowl, Early leaks can cause panic which then results in pressure on police by concerned individuals to interview more children than necessary, make premature arrests and `tell all' before the trial. Usually there is backlash from dissatisfied parents, as well as from supporters of the accused (s) which increases as the investigation drags on, and everyone starts to feel quite desperate. Media hype will occur in particular when there are rumours of ritualism or sex rings,(which people find grotesquely scary or despicable) and of multiple victims (which makes everyone with children feel vulnerable).
Within the midst of such pressure, the police are attempting to conduct the important task of sorting through the historical data for corroboration, and obtaining material evidence which supports the allegations of young children who may not be able to accurately remember locations or describe events with sufficient detail. Scene visits with or without child victims, carrying out warrants to search specific locations, interviewing other potential witnesses and taking their statements, will all be arduous because of the sheer amount of work that must be done, and the fact that all these activities generate interest and attention in the community. Complainant parents tend to be hypersensitive, and for professionals the investigation as a whole, will be like working in a fish bowl, or under a magnifying glass.
Lastly there is the realistic and pressing need to meet the support and treatment requirements of identified complainants and their families without jeopardizing the integrity of the case, and involving too many people in the `loop'. This is extremely difficult, but in my view providing necessary treatment and support is ethically unavoidable.
Having read all the material sent to me regarding the Ellis investigation, I do not feel that I would be exaggerating if I suggested that each of the challenges described above were present in this case.
Over the last decade, the professional community has heard a lot about the potential negative effects of alleged contamination of evidence in multiple victim multiple offender (MVMO) cases. This has come mainly from the devastating results in a number of high profile cases in the US that have been written up in the literature, and the subsequent analogue research that has been carried out on the suggestibility of children's memories (Ceci and Bruck, 1995). I have learned from my own experience in two MVMO cases, that these concerns cannot be ignored and require the development of special procedures and standardized protocols as a precautionary measure.
The MVMO case which has received the most notoriety in the literature and in the press, is the "Kelly Michael's case" (State vs. Michaels) in which a young boy, aged three attending a nursery school in the United States, made a spontaneous disclosure to his family physician while she was taking his rectal temperature. In essence, as he was being examined, he said to her "that is what my teacher does to me at school': Following this disclosure, the nursery school board members were notified by the physician of the child's statement, and they sent a letter to all the parents informing them that a former employee was being investigated for sexual abuse. This child's disclosure led to a massive police investigation of all the children with whom Ms. Kelly had had contact in the nursery while she was employed. By the time the investigation was completed in 1988, there were 113 counts of sexual abuse against Ms. Michael.
Some of the children's accounts were shocking, and included allegations that there had been insertion of eating utensils into their rectums and vaginas. Michaels was convicted on the majority of the counts, and she received a prison term of 47 years. However five years later, in 1993, she was released after a successful appeal. Her convictions were all overturned on the grounds that the interviews of the children who were very young, a) contained questions which planted sexual information in their minds, b) communicated information about what other children had said, and c) demonized the accused. Overall it was concluded that the manner in which the investigation was conducted led to contamination of the evidence and diminished the reliability of the children's accounts.
Another notorious MVMO investigation was the McMartin case, (Montoya, 1993) which began in 1983. Apparently Raymond Buckey, an employee of the Mc Martin preschool was arrested when a parent made an accusation that he sexually abused their child. Following his arrest, questionnaires were distributed to parents of preschoolers where he had worked. These questionnaires implied that Buckey was a potential child molester. Despite the fact that none of the returned questionnaires contained further allegations against him, nor confirmed the existing allegations made by the one child, the parents were urged to have their children interviewed by the police and social services. These interviewers concluded that 360 of the 400 McMartin children had been sexually abused by Buckey and others over the ten year period that Buckey worked at the preschool. Numerous charges were laid. At the lengthy trial however, the jury acquitted Buckey and the seven associates on charges of abuse, basing their decision on similar reasons as the appeal in Michael's case - contamination of the children's evidence.
The two Canadian MVMO cases in Ontario, were much more successful in their sexual abuse prosecutions. In both these cases, the investigations were carried out very cautiously. However in all fairness it should be pointed out that in the first case, the positive court outcomes were also due to the fact that there were a few offender confessions midway through the investigation, which went a long way to corroborating the children's accounts and giving credence to the `story'. In the second case there was an abundance of corroborative evidence in the form of seized pornographic videos of some of the children, which not only broke the case, abut also lent credence to the theory of a `child sex ring'.
Overall, based on the cases that I have reviewed, it is apparent to me that the stakes involved in mounting such a complex investigation are high. Managing the voluminous evidence in multi-victim multi offender cases can best be described as handling an evolution of dynamic data, fragile and interconnected, and vulnerable to contamination from all sides and on many levels. In the absence of a sound protocol, victims, their families, and the community at large, can face a lengthy, uncoordinated and potentially ineffective investigation which impacts negatively on the outcome of the criminal prosecution, and results in acquittals and increased vulnerability in children who later come into contact with the offender. In the event that an individual is wrongly accused and convicted based on contaminated evidence, there is a miscarriage of justice.
From the moment that an allegation of child sexual abuse first surfaces within an institution or community setting, there is the natural tendency on the part of parents and professionals to look for signs of abuse in children who have been exposed to the offender, but who have not disclosed any wrong doing. On the positive side, this can be helpful in uncovering other children who have also been hurt. On the negative side, it can lead to an over-reaction by adults to neutral unrelated events, behaviors and even comments made by children. Sometimes innocuous or irrelevant behaviors can be treated with suspicion and wrongly interpreted as evidence of abuse. Even professionals working in the field, who are more removed and objective than the parents, experience a great deal of pressure to uncover abuse if it has occurred, and view any untoward symptoms with concern. Finally, in the case of the police department, calls to make an arrest and remove the threat are strong. This is particularly true as time goes on and the abuse net widens. The demands on professionals working in a MVMO case are high, as the public responds to news leaks by becoming hyper-vigilant and frightened by the scope of the problem and their own vulnerability.
It has been identified that steps must be undertaken right from the beginning to contain the hysteria and amateur sleuthing. Even though concerned adults will demand to know what is going on, and will assume often incorrectly that there are things that they are not being told which directly affect them, it is important to protect the details of the allegations from all but the investigators.
The problem of course is when an offender is dismissed from a facility pending an investigation and there is information leaked (in the press, or by staff or a parent) about the reasons for the suspension. When this happens, it is almost impossible to stop the hypothesizing and people will go to great lengths to uncover the `truth'. The way in which the facility (ie. daycare, school, hospital) handles this stage is critical. By the time the police are involved, and the first child(ren) is (are) formally interviewed, `informed' parents may well have begun their own investigation of their children.
One common characteristic of multiple cases involving children is that the case usually evolves from an initial single victim to potential multiple victims fairly quickly, as some of the children identify other children involved in the abuse, who have not disclosed. It is common knowledge that delayed disclosures of sexual abuse by victimized children are the norm, especially in cases where the offender is in a position of trust, threats have been employed to achieve silence, and the victims are young Sauzier,1989; Sas et al., 1993; and Sorenson and Snow, 1991 ). In the Project Guardian case, that I was involved with, there was not one spontaneous disclosure! Not one child ever came forward to describe their abuse, despite the fact that for nearly fifteen years this set ring operated in London. If it were not for the pornographic videotapes involving the children which were found in a river near our city, I doubt that there would have been an investigation at all!
Documented studies of adult survivors support the contention that many children never disclose their abuse because no one has asked. The significance of this finding is that childhood victimization may only come to light when children are confronted with what others have said about them, or when their parents are worried and suspicious about their behavior and ask the right questions. Even then, a good proportion of the children will deny personal involvement, at least initially (MacFarlane and Krebs,1986). Others will acknowledge witnessing events described to them, but will not admit to being victimized themselves. Finally, a few will make vague disclosures which are potentially diagnostic and cause their parents sufficient concern to request an investigative interview, but then may or may not provide sufficient information to lay a criminal charge.
Potential child victims are often times identified through referrals from concerned parents who as a result of new information, begin to re-examine behaviors and comments and comments by their children in the past. They then question whether their children acted in a particular way because they were abused. Such parents have no doubt been sensitized to that possibility, by having received information informally from other parents, or as part of a formal agency presentation following the disclosure of one child. For some of these parents whose children eventually become complainants, things unfortunately fall into place, and they will begin to understand the etiology of their children's symptomatology (nightmares, toileting problems, sexualized behaviors, unexplained fears, misunderstood comments). In the case of a minority of parents however, they begin to read into every past nuance and innocent behavior of their child, interpreting it as definitive proof that there has been abuse, even if this is not the case.
Some of these parents will ask very direct and leading questions and pressure their children to disclose the abuse they feel has certainly happened. This latter example is of course concerning and carries risks for the emotional well-being of the children, and the integrity of an investigation.
The dilemma of course is what to do as the case evolves, and more and more potential victims are identified. It is not as though one usually knows in advance that there are going to be so many possible victims. In a MVMO case, the decision to conduct multiple interviews is often a reactive one, as the police respond to new developments and unfolding information. In many of the high profile cases I've read about, organized parent meetings occurred early on, and or letters were sent to parents at the outset providing varying amounts of information about the allegations, the progress of the investigation, and directions on how parents should conduct themselves with their children.
In the "Michaels" case, following a letter from the Board of the Day Care, investigative interviews began of all the children with whom the accused had contact with. In the "McMartin" case, 350 of the 400 children attending became complainants following a similar pattern of briefing the parents!
In the 'Ellis' matter, it is my understanding that City Council Board of the Civic Creche made a decision to hold a meeting in early December of 1991, following the first child's disclosure and interview, and the suspension of Mr. Ellis pending the investigation. I understand that this meeting was attended by many parents of children at the Civic Creche, as well as Creche board members, a representative of the police, Detective Colin Eade and a specialist interviewer Sue Sidey. Creche workers other than Mr Ellis were present.
From the information in the evidence it appears that the purpose of the meeting was to inform parents that there had been a comment made by a child that suggested possible sexual impropriety, and that an investigation was under way. The suspended worker was easily identified, as he was the only male worker at the Creche at the time, and it was common knowledge that he had been suspended from his position. This fact could not be kept hidden. In any event, this information was already in the newspaper, an article having occurred in the Christchurch paper the morning of the December meeting. According to the evidence I read, many parents of complainant children reported seeing the article. Parents decided to come to the meeting to find out more. Those who had not seen the article either knew nothing about the actual purpose of the meeting, or had heard about the allegation through the rumor mill. In the year following the meeting, 118 children were subsequently interviewed.
At first glance the magnitude of the investigation causes alarm bells to ring. This is especially true for someone who does not appreciate the dynamics underlying child victimization in general and child sexual abuse in particular. In my experience, the way in which the allegations evolved in the"Ellis case" is consistent with developments in other multiple child victim sexual abuse cases. The lack of spontaneous disclosures in the children is consistent with the dynamics of secrecy and accommodation that exist whenever children are victimized within the context of a caretaking relationship and there is the opportunity for grooming (Sas et al, 1995).
It is critical that a protocol exists in every community to handle MVMOs Because of my mandate in this inquiry, I focused on two central goals in identifying a "Best practices Model" for investigations in multi victim multi offender cases: 1) reducing the risk of contamination of children's evidence on a broad system level, and 2) carrying out sound forensic interviews of young children about potentially traumatic events. At each step in the protocol, I have compared the standards that existed in the "Ellis" investigation to those outlined in a "Best Practices Model" with respect to management of contamination of children's evidence.
The model does not profess to cover all aspects of a criminal investigation, but merely those which impinge directly on the clinical reliability of children's evidence. I will begin by focusing on the first issue, that of contamination on the system level, In order to evaluate the "Ellis" investigation with respect to the two central issues I outlined above, the following checklist for developing a sound protocol was used as a standard. It was adapted in part from recommendations for dealing with multi victim multi offender cases stemming from a conference I attended (IPCA, 1992).
1) At the organizational level an effective documentation system should be in place to alert staff to a possible multiple victim/multiple offender investigation.
2) A crisis support team made up of senior police, crown and child protection workers should be in place in a community, the members of which should all have specialized training in the following; the conduction of diagnostic and evidentiary interviews of children, the nature and dynamics of child sexual abuse and in particular multiple/ victim abuse, and the investigation and prosecution of such cases. Additionally, past experience dealing with complex multifaceted cases should be required as the stress on professionals will be intense and the professional demands challenging.
3) Established agreements with other community agencies should be in place, so that accessibility to needed resources is immediate, and services such as treatment, victim witness support, court preparation, forensic medical exams, and expert testimony can be arranged expeditiously. Given the scope of these investigations and the magnitude of witnesses that will be involved, children could wait weeks and even months for interviews, medical exams etc, unless there are existing arrangements to expedite referrals. Having available additional resources on call on short notice to meet the overflow, is particularly important because of the potential for contamination of evidence increases as time goes on, and the window of opportunity to collect corroboration narrows.
4) An agreed upon media strategy should exist encompassing all the crisis team members and agencies providing resources, and documenting the lines of communication. This strategy should take into consideration such problems as "leaks" and backlash. Ideally one person should be designated responsible for handling the media and general inquiries by the public. This was very effective in the Project Guardian investigation.
5) A ministerial response team at the governmental level should be identified to assist financially if needed, and help coordinate access to extra staffing and expertise, if this does not exist in the community.
1) A lead case manager should be assigned ASAP and the actual structure and identity of the front line investigative team should be determined quickly (including numbers, hierarchy of command, specific roles)
It is apparent that in the Ellis investigation this was done sometime in the early part of 1992. once there was a confirmed disclosure in interview. There appeared to be formal roles assigned to everyone on the investigative team (such as specialist interviewers). It is my understanding that the Crown Solicitor's office was first advised of the investigation in late 1991. There did appear to be a delay in bringing the social worker on board as support for the parents.
2) Flexibility will need to be built in, as the time frame for the work will generally expand as well as the work load, as more information is revealed.
No doubt as the number of potential complainants increased and the need for more interviews became apparent other interviewers were brought on board, as well as other staff.
3) Identification of the experts that will need to be involved in the case should be followed up by formal discussions, and decisions should be made regarding medical and psychological assessment needs of child complainants. Children should be referred immediately through pre-existing agreements arranged with other agency resources and professionals.
In reading the evidence at depositions and trial in the Ellis matter, it was obvious that there were quite a few experts involved who either examined the children medically and provided expert testimony on medical findings consistent with abuse, or as in the case of the psychiatrist who was a crown witness, testified specifically about the reliability of the complainant children's disclosures, and generally about children's memory, and abuse symptomatology.
4) Clear communication lines should exist between involved professionals on the case. This should be carried out through regular team meetings for the team staff, and additional meetings if other professionals are invited to present their findings.
It was reported that the investigative team met regularly to review the information and the developments in the case. It was not possible for me to determine the frequency of those meetings or all the participants but it sounded as though there was ongoing communication between members of the investigative team.
5) Clinical supervision should be available to the specialist interviewers throughout the investigation, with respect to two features; diagnostic interpretation of children's disclosures, and general quality of the interviewing style. Because of the volume of interviews the interviewers must carry out, it is important to have an objective expert provide feedback to the team.
According to the evidence I read. I deducted that a specialist psychiatrist provided supervision to the interviewers, but I am not clear how often that was and if all the interviewers received this supervision or only Sue Sidey. In her cross examination, it was clear that the Psychiatrist was certainly aware of the disclosures in the tapes and the demeanor of the children when interviewed. which meant that she must have reviewed all the tapes about which she testified. She was also apparently involved in the decision not to allow an interview with Child X due to her concerns of contamination.
6) A detective should always be involved in the investigative interviews and act as the monitors.
In reviewing the schedule of interviews (used at depositions and trial) provided to me. I noted that Det. Colin Eade was present for twenty-eight of the 57 interviews which is about 50%. I was not clear whether there were other officers as well who functioned as monitors. However. there there were some interviews that were monitored by one of the interviewers. Given that these are forensic interviews I feel that it is important for there to be a police presence. The `notes' sent under the door by Det. Eade were very helpful in assisting interviewers to clarify events with children, so that appropriate charges could be laid.
7) Police should identify the technical assistance that will be required and insure that everything is available as needed
8) An attempt should be made to corroborate any descriptions of children's accounts of places and events through police investigative work. This can include site visits, search warrants of particular properties, seizures of potential evidence etc..
I was very impressed with the amount of effort that went into the Ellis investigation to find the locations the children spoke of and to look for the rooms. Presence of traps doors etc that were described by the complainants and to look for Proof that they were indeed there. The police department made a gallant effort in that regard.
9) Specific measures should be taken to minimize the threat of contamination early in the investigative stage. As soon as possible, it is important to seek to control the delivery of information to the public, especially to the parents of potential child victims. This can be done by handling inquiries on an individual basis with a pre-arranged statement. If a parent meeting has already been organized by a community agency/institution in response to an internal investigation and suspension, it will be necessary to attend that meeting to insure that the correct information is disseminated, Police at this stage should emphasize the very preliminary nature of the inquiry, minimize the risks to children by pointing out that there may not be other complainants beyond those who have come forward, and warn parents not to contaminate the investigation by questioning their children at length.
It would be my opinion having read the evidence given by parents of complainants and professional witnesses for the crown about what was said at the Dec 1991 first meeting, that this was attempted by the Department of Specialist Services unit and the Police Child Abuse Unit staff in the "Ellis" matter.
10) If a meeting has been called, then a hand out sheet should be distributed containing a strong advisory which warns potential witnesses and in particular parents of potential child complainants of the dangers of sharing detailed information about any child's allegations, or any thing else that pertains to the case, with other parents. Parents should also be told that they must not share information with their children about what other children may have said. The police child abuse unit should provide support and direction for parents as to how they should interact with their children around the matter.
In the first meeting in Dec 1991 nothing was provided in writing about the possibility of contamination but it was apparently stressed verbally at the meeting. The fact that some parents testified they remembered clearly being told not to talk to each other about any allegations is positive. The fact that other parents couldn't remember if that was indeed said substantiates the need to have a written advisory given out.
11) A handout containing the phone number of the police child abuse unit should be made available for parents who attend a parent meeting, and can perhaps be made available in other venues in the community. It would not be advisable to have such a handout at the actual facility where the alleged sexual abuse was said to have taken place. This handout should contain the case manager's name for parents to call if they have further questions or concerns about their own children. This will hopefully prevent parents from calling numerous agencies and/or private professionals for advice on whether their child should be interviewed by police.
This was clearly done in the Ellis case, on the first page of the handout (exhibit 9) and the top part of the second page. It appears that this was handed out in March 1992 at the Knox Hall second information meeting and not at the first information meeting in December 1991. In hindsight, it should have been given out in December.
12) There should not be any suggestion in handouts to parents during the early stages of the investigation of the need for treatment or the potential for behavioral upset and distress in their children if they disclose, as this may be premature and may set the stage for a self-fulfilling prophecy in some families where parents are very anxious and they transmit their anxiety to their children.
At the Knox Hall meeting in March of 1992, information for parents was provided on page two of the handout in five boxes under a PLEASE REMEMBER section. Some of the statements caused me some concern. The information contained in the `Supporting your Child' section probably should have been given on an individual basis to parents who requested assistance as a result of distress or behavior problems in their children following their discussions of the Creche.
The concern with the handout was that it implied that many children would likely need support, because of the development of potential `problem behaviors', and would likely be asking difficult questions of their parents. The evidence at depositions was that at that point most of the parents at the meeting had not recognized or formally identified their children as having significant problems due to abuse and had not had their children in any treatment. That is not to say that some of the children were NOT exhibiting behaviors consistent with abuse sequelae (as the evidence given by parents at depositions and trial strongly supported the contention that many of the complainant children were displaying, symptoms of sexual traumatization ), but at that point, their parents had not recognized the etiology of their children's difficulties. For the other parents of children who were not in any way victimized, this handout created the expectation or mindset in parents that they should expect difficulties.
As an alternative, I would have provided the name of the person in the DSW who was on the team as a resource to answer inquiries if any problems arose in the children after their parents talked to them.
It would not be my suggestion that parents be provided with a written or verbal list at a meeting. of actual symptoms that are suggestive of sexual abuse. Instead I would have suggested to parents that if children from the Creche were exhibiting any behaviors of concern to their parents while they were at the creche, that they discuss this with a designated person on the team (one who had expertise in determining the significance of the symptoms and their relevance). The specialist interviewer or social worker could have run through a list of behavioral sequelae with the individual parents which they could have confirmed or disconfirmed. Normal behaviors that are not associated with any past abuse could have been included in that list as a precaution.
Another strategy recommended by Friedrich (1990) and Waterman and Lusk (1993) is the use of standardized behavior checklists as a diagnostic screening device as well. The CBCL (Child Behavior Check List -Achenbach 1987), or the Child Sexual Behaviors Inventory (Friedrich, 1990) are two tests that have been shown to discriminate between abused and non abused samples of children. If the decision was made to use a standardized test as part of the initial screening assessment for investigative interviews, then the results could have been interpreted, and depending on the findings, a referral made to the investigative team.
In the Ellis matter, parents and the specialist interviewer SS reported in their evidence, that information was provided to parents about some of the behavioral sequelae that they might encounter in their children. Although I do not believe that this significantly influenced the parents to report more symptomatology than was present, some parents may have wrongly attributed their child's symptoms to abuse without considering an alternative hypothesis.
The box on "medical examinations" as well should not have been provided at this point in the investigation for the same reason. It subtly suggested that some of the children could have been penetrated or injured in some way, which would necessitate an intrusive medical examination for confirmation. This could have caused many parents undue stress and panic, and for no reason. Unless children had already been identified as likely victims of sexual abuse in the case (based on formal interviews), parents would not need to know that a necessary step in a forensic investigation which included allegations of penetration, was consistent physical corroboration. That information could have been shared with parents on a case by case basis when it was timely.
The box on "Counselling and Funding" also concerned me because it seemed premature to offer this to parents who came to an information meeting This advice could have been provided to parents on an individual basis when they called the DSW or Police Child Abuse Unit with concerns or requests for referrals.
Of all the information, that was offered at the March meeting the box entitled "Support for Parents" was the most problematic in that it formally recommended that parents support each other through the investigation. It is not that I believe parents should not have been supportive to each other not at all. It would have been better to offer them the services of a designated social worker on an individual basis in late December 1991. As it was the absence of an identified social worker to meet individually with parents of child complainants early on resulted in one parent informally assuming that role. By the time the Knox meeting was held, some parents had been meeting informally for several months. In fact the information in this box may have encouraged the formation of the informal parent support group which met regularly in addition to the formal support croup which began in early April.
In the Ellis case, the evidence suggests that in addition to the pre-existing friendships between some of the parents of Creche children, two scheduled information meetings and many support group meetings led to a lot of contact between parents of child complainants who would not normally have associated together, but were drawn by their involvement in this case.
From a philosophical point of view it makes sense to have parents get together and vent their frustrations with the system and their fears for the well being of their children, but from a forensic point of view it is not good practice. The reality is that parents will talk informally to each other anyway, and creating an infrastructure for them to do so may simply legitimize this process and lessen their inhibitions.
The third pane of the handout on how to handle disclosures which was distributed at the Knox meeting could have used some modifications. In particular, the title "What to do when (the word `when' crossed out but visible and replaced with 'if) a child tells of his or her abuse" was problematic. A more appropriate title for the handout would have been "If your child discloses that he or she was abused" follow these guidelines.
The following is a modified list with other suggestions that would have been less controversial at that stage in the Ellis investigation.
(A HANDOUT FOR PARENTS)
Broach the topic by asking a few very general questions about their time at the Creche. Listen carefully, and do not suggest anything to your child that you have heard from others. If they do not disclose anything concerning, follow this up with a general question about whether anyone (adult or child) has ever made them scared or was mean to them, or did things to them they did not like while they were at the Creche. Ask them to explain. If they disclose abuse, carry out steps (a) to (g) . If not, try one leading question along the following vein "some children have mentioned that a teacher at school did things to them they did not like at the Creche, has a teacher ever done anything to you that you did not like, or made you feel afraid?" Follow (a) to (g) if there is a disclosure. If not, then abort the questions immediately and change the topic. If you hear information from the police later on that challenges the veracity of your child's non-disclosure, then ask a general question again and then proceed to (f) as the next interview should be carried out by a trained interviewer at their discretion.
a)Do not pressure your child to tell you more or provide all the details.
b)Do not over react to the child's information.
c)Reassure your child that they are safe and you will help them with their feelings about what happened
d)Reinforce that no matter what happened it was not their fault.
e)Tell them they did the right thing to disclose when you asked because now you can make sure that it won't happen again.
f)Seek support and advice from the DSW or the Police Child Abuse Unit (#s enclosed) immediately.
g)Avoid bringing up the topic with your child after the first time. Do not repeatedly interview your child in between formal interviews.
REMEMBER: The most important thing is not to take on the role of the police or special services, as forensic interviews should only be carried out by specially trained interviewers.
Parents who do not want to engage in any conversation with their child about the Creche, but have concerns that their child might have been abused, should make a referral to the police/ DSW.
In summary, how parents responded to the possibility that there was ongoing abuse in the Creche attended by their children, depended on the interaction between the information they received early on and their personality type. The same information received by different parents could have resulted in very different reactions. This was evident at the trial when complainant parents were asked about their attendance at the two meetings and of their impressions of the message that was portrayed at the first meeting varied. Parents of R, and Z, and N, described the December meeting as low key and remembered being advised not to question their children aggressively. They did not think that their children had been involved. One parent of D seemed to suggest that the meeting was unsatisfactory, as it provided so little information.
By the time the March meeting had been called however, there had been many more interviews, and Mr. Ellis had been arrested based on a disclosure by a child in January. One parent described how parents felt frustrated with the sluggishness of the system and angry at the lack of information. Despite these complaints, the best strategy would still have been to once again understate the concerns in order not to cause undue upset and over reaction by parents of children who had attended the creche during the indictment period, but had not disclosed anything. The Knox meeting likely did the opposite because of some of the handout material.
Overall, the cumulative impact of the growing number of children interviewed in the early part of 1992, the type of information handed out at the March Knox Hall meeting, and the arrest of Mr Ellis suggested the possibility of widespread abuse. This may have led to more children being referred for interviews than needed to be (about 118 children). This broadened the nature and scope of the investigation, and increased the work load.
The reassuring fact is the conservative number of children who actually became complainants. The fact that potentially more children were interviewed in the investigation interviews, did not seriously affect the reliability of the complainant children's evidence that was presented at the time of trial.
13) The next most important thing is to reinforce to parents that they are not investigators and are not expected to carry out mini- investigations.
In the Ellis investigation there was evidence offered that some of the parents talked with their children about the events as much if not more than the trained interviewers in the videotaped sessions. This was apparent in the exhibits that were provided in court about their discussions with their children regarding the creche and the accused (stories, drawings, notes tapes etc). Some of these parents also took their children on site visits trying to see if they recognized certain buildings and places where they may have been taken. This latter activity was apparently at the suggestion of the police
14) It is important to follow up on information that there is someone spreading information around the community and in particular to other parents of complainants. Identifying any persons responsible for spreading information, and warning them of the fact that they are potentially obstructing the case and contaminating the evidence of their child and of other children is critical. Determining the extent of damage is advisable in assessing whether to lay charges on behalf of a particular child.
In the Ellis matter there was evidence that one parent in particular went to great lengths to share information with other parents about the allegations and the connection between children and certain incidents.
There were a few other parents who also blatantly ignored the directive not to spread information about their children's disclosures. One parent, whose child made the initial disclosure which led to the investigation of Mr. Ellis, apparently became an informal social worker for some of the other parents between the months of Nov 91 and March 92.
Throughout the investigation she provided parents with literature on child sexual abuse, discussed symptoms, phoned other parents with information about allegations of other children, notified parents if their child had been named by another child, and went so far as to create a list which she handed out in August 1992 at a meeting, of parents at the house of a child complainant. This list outlined all the places the children alleged they were taken, the locations where abuse took place, the types of abuse committed, alleged adult perpetrator names, and types of threats made to silence them. She even included theories of involvement of Japanese tourists and ritual abuse at the Masonic Lodge. She labeled the accused as a child hater and molester.
She attended the support group for parents of child complainants and some of the informal support groups as well. She was investigating things on her own, even though her own child did not end up as one of the complainants in the trial. In her evidence, the mother of D admitted that she chose to ignore the police directive not to do all this, but she felt that the parents were frustrated by the process and lack of information shared with them by the police. She wanted to assist parents in dealing with the process. She was described by parents as a wonderful resource and support.
15) Provide as little information as possible to families about the details of their children's disclosures and no information about other children's disclosures, while the matter is under investigation and there is a possibility that their child will be re-interviewed, or that they will have contact with other parents of complainant children who have yet to be interviewed.
From the testimony I read, it was clear to me that the interviewers shared with Parents the outcomes of their children's interviews each time they came, but it appears that they respected the confidentiality of other children.
16) Ensure that the team discusses details of the case internally only, and that the sharing of information with other resources is on an absolute `need to know' basis. Identify any leaks emanating from the team as soon as possible, and deal with it accordingly.
17) Develop a strategy for dealing with the problem of shared information by witnesses and child victims by identifying every known leak as it emerges and discussing its impact on that particular child's evidence and the case at large with the team.
It was evident that this was done on a number of occasions. For example this occurred when a planned interview was cancelled because there were concerns about parental contamination of one child's disclosures. (Child X)
18) Discourage a contact between child complainants (unless of course they are siblings) until their interviews are completed. If they are close friends, then have parents agree to monitor their children's conversations.
I did not see any evidence that this was formally done. In court some parents reported that their children played together during the investigation stage. There was at least one situation where children spontaneously spoke about the abuse to each other, and the mother recorded the conversation.
19) Until the interviews are all completed, keep the communication lines open, but generally in one direction only, with information flowing towards the investigative team; such that if a child is in treatment, the therapist is responsible to alert the team immediately when and if there is a disclosure, but details of the disclosures made in the forensic interviews are not shared with the therapist. As well, encourage parents to bring forward to the team any information their child has disclosed spontaneously, or any other bits of relevant information, but do not provide details back to parents of what their children have said in their interviews.
Although this may seem uncaring at the time, it is better that parents and others only have a general awareness and not specific details of allegations until the investigation is over. If their children are disclosing details to them directly in a spontaneous manner, that is a different matter and can't be controlled. The interviewer should not add to or confirm that information.
In the Ellis investigation, I was not able to determine whether information was shared by the interviewer with the therapists of the child complainants, but it was shared with parents.
20) If parents of child complainants know each other well and on their own initiative are meeting regularly to support each other, assign someone from the team to attend the meetings and listen to the discussions. In addition to providing emotional support, this person can also function as a gentle reminder that 'evidence' should not be shared while the investigation is underway.
It was reported that there were formal support group meetings led by the social worker beginning in April 1992, and informal sport meetings which were attended from time to time by Sue Sidey and Det Colin Eade. This was the best that could be done under the circumstances.
21) Discourage parents from independently gathering evidence, interviewing their own or other children, or providing resources to other parents. These activities should all originate and be carried out by the investigative team.
In the Ellis investigation, there were reports that parents were actively involved in the investigation. For example the parents of several complainants took them places in their car so that they might be able to identify the places they had been taken with the offender. Some complainant mothers interviewed children and wrote down the disclosures. There was one situation where a mother produced two audio tapes of her interviews with her child. I am not surprised that all this was challenged by the defense, as at times it appeared as though the parents were independently gathering evidence while the police investigation was going on.
22) Assign a social worker to assist parents with their own anxieties and upset, provide general reading material if requested. Ensure that parents are able to support their children through the investigation, and beyond.
This was done but not until March 1992. Parent D provided much of the early support and suggested resource books for children on abuse and disclosure. It is my opinion that such books may encourage disclosures in children who would normally not come forward, but then do not encourage false disclosures, and as such did not contribute to any contamination of the children's evidence
23) In consultation with parents, make referrals for treatment of child complainants if they are presenting with emotional distress or significant behavioral problems in the aftermath of their disclosures. It is not necessarily true that every child will require treatment. When referrals are made, ensure that these therapists are "on board", that is that they are aware of the pending court involvement, and the need to document clearly their interventions and discussions with the children. They should not see their role as one of soliciting information from the children they see about the details of the abuse, but should be supportive of the children and help them cope with their feelings around the abuse.
I was not clear whether parents made their own referrals to therapists or whether there were referrals facilitated by the team to particular therapists.
In the last decade, there has been mounting concerns over the way in which children are interviewed when there are suspicions of sexual abuse. Historically, there has always been doubts about the veracity of children's accounts of sexual abuse, despite social science research which has documented favourable accounts of the accuracy of children's memory for traumatic events. No doubt this skepticism has arisen once again as a result of a number of high profile legal cases in which scores of children have made extreme and often improbable allegations of abuse following repeated and highly suggestive interviews (Dunn 1995, Ceci & Bruck 1990. Although most legal cases involve only single or double investigative interviews of children, the problem of repeated highly suggestive interviews has been raised. This is of particular relevance when cases involve young children who because of their stage of development, are less verbal, lack general knowledge and comprehension, and are socially immature. In the absence of corroborative medical evidence which is rarely present in child sexual abuse, and due to the clandestine nature of sexual abuse which precludes witnesses (other than other children), investigative child interviews provide the crucial evidence in a criminal case. They must therefore be carried out competently.
The personality, temperament and intelligence of the child who is being interviewed are all givens. The interviewer must work with the individual attributes that the child brings to the interview, to uncover what if anything has happened to the child With particularly young children, interviewing remains a challenge because they lack the vocabulary to describe events that have happened to them, and they often misunderstand exactly what they are being asked They tend to be very concrete in their thinking style and take comments made to them literally. They also may lack the social comprehension to fully understand the significance of what has occurred to them.
In light of these developmental deficiencies, clinical researchers have suggested that great caution must be exercised when asking children questions in a forensic interview. It has been demonstrated that free recall reports' or `narratives' received from children (even as young as age 2.5 or 3) are usually accurate, but tend to be very incomplete. Because details are especially needed in a forensic interview, the interviewer is forced to ask more direct questions in order to obtain the missing information from the child's initial account. This practice then raises a concern over possible contamination of children's memories for events through the process of suggestion. Are interviewers providing too much direction in their questions? Are they limiting the choices children have in responding when they give them forced choice options? Are interviewers suggesting to children that things have happened in a certain way, because they themselves believe so? Are they intimidating children into finally disclosing even when nothing happened by repeatedly asking the same questions over and over?
Although the research strongly supports the use of a free narrative technique in the beginning of an interview, professionals have to be realistic, and everyone recognizes that some leading questions will need to be asked in order to assist children in retrieving their memories. Young children in particular have trouble accessing their memories for details, and depend on cues from the interviewer to organize the delivery of their information. It is therefore the order as well as the type of questions that becomes important in an evidentiary interview, and the balance that is struck between the number of leading and open ended questions.
Repeated questioning is the most controversial problem in forensic interviewing, because of the possible demand characteristics that might ensue when children come to believe that they have answered wrongly (because the question is being asked again), or feel they must produce more information even if they do not have it. Research appears to suggest that if the repeated questioning is across interviews, it does not necessarily produce inaccuracies in children's reports (Fivush, Peterson and Schwarzmueller; in press). However, it is more problematic if it occurs in one interview session. Repeated questions should not however be confused with repeating to the child what they have already provided and checking if that it is accurate. When false information is repeatedly presented to a child as true across interviews, or if there is a highly negative response to information provided by a child across interviews, then there could be an increase in error and false reports.
Overall there appears to be definite developmental differences in children's suggestibility and memory function. Younger children are more susceptible to suggestion, because they are less competent in encoding, storing and retrieving memory traces, but all children have a natural tendency to view adults as `all knowing' and to feel pressure from authority figures who they believe have the right answers. An encouraging research finding for forensic interviewers is that generally, it is more difficult to mislead children to report negative or abuse related events than positive events, regardless of age(Eisen, Goodman, Qin and Davis; 1998). Children are fairly resistant to suggestions that they've been hurt for example, when they have not. Examining interviews for children's `resistance to suggestion' is important when determining how malleable a child was to presented information by an interviewer.
Another area of identified difficulty for younger children is `source monitoring', that is determining the actual source of their memories and accurately reporting whether the memories they are describing are their own or something they've been told (Poole and Lindsay, 1990. The ability to differentiate one's own memories from other's increases with age. In an evidentiary interview, it is important to evaluate the child's source monitoring to insure that they are describing their own experiences, not something they've been told.
With respect to the overall quality of investigative interviews themselves, there is a large body of work examining the effects of the total number of interviews, the specific style of questioning (repeated, exploratory, direct, probing, misleading, and forced choice), the media employed to solicit the information, and the overall emotional tone and level of coercion in the interview. No doubt at the base of this research has been the heated debate on children's increased suggestibility to certain types of questioning and their production of false memories.
In response to these concerns and others, clinical researchers have issued guidelines for interviewing children. These include a number of characteristics which should be monitored if one is evaluating whether disclosure information obtained from a child in an evidentiary interview is reliable (Boat and Everson, 1988; Faller, 1990; Morgan and Edwards, 1995; and Quas, Goodman ,Ghetti,& Redlich, 2000). These characteristics include both interviewer variables and interviewing variables. The following suggested "Best Practices Model" for interviewing includes a compilation of features which together provide sound evidentiary interviews of children and draws heavily on Faller's guidelines (1996). After each feature, a comparison is made to the interview process in the Ellis investigation.
24) The interviewer should be well trained in investigative interviewing, child development, the dynamics of child sexual abuse, and childhood victimization in general.
In the Ellis investigation the three interviewers had varying amounts of expertise in the area of evidentiary interviews. The interviewer who conducted almost all of the interviews of the trial complainants where the evidence resulted in convictions (except for the three interviews of complainant N, and the first interview of X.) was the most knowledgeable in the area of investigative interviews and child sexual abuse, and had conducted over four hundred evidentiary interviews prior to her involvement in the Ellis matter.
25) The interviewer should not be aware of the `specifics' of the allegations about which they are to interview the child about, but should be aware of the general suspicions.
In the Ellis investigation, interviewers were aware of many of the details of the allegations children had made to their parents prior to the conduction of the formal interviews. This was because parents were the first to question their own children about the accused following the December 1991 and March 1992 information meeting. Parents appeared in some measure to be the initial screening body with respect to whether Creche children were interviewed by the authorities. From reading the evidence, I gleaned that parents often consulted with the DSW, the police and specialist interviewers when requesting that their children be interviewed or reinterviewed. In the majority of cases I reviewed, they most certainly provided information to the interviewers about their children's comments regarding the Creche and the accused. There was however great variability in the amount of questioning conducted by parents of child complainants. and in the presentation and organization of this information that was provided to the interviewers.
With respect to the complainants whose cases resulted in convictions. I noted that complainant S's mother made a book with her about what had happened which the child brought with her to the first interview, complainants P's and O's mother made two audio tapes of her children's disclosures as well as many notes. the mothers of complainants X, and Z, as well questioned their children and made their detailed notes available. However. mothers of complainants N, O and R did not. Of the cases at trial where there wasn't a conviction the notes and joint drawings made by the mother and complainant Y were suggestive in their tone and content and were somewhat concerning.
26) The interviewer must not go into an interview simply to confirm a preconception by someone else that abuse has occurred.
In all interviews I reviewed, it was obvious that the interviewers had been given information by parents prior to the interview with the child This was communicated early on in the interviews when the interviewer cued the child by saying that they understood they had something to tell which they had already told their parents. It was my clinical impression that this knowledge was used to gently cue the children and help them retrieve their memories of events which they had previously disclosed to their parents. Generally, the initial questions asked by the interviewers were open ended, but did become more specific and direct (such as "can you tell me what you told your mum and dad about P ?") There were some examples in interviews where the interviewer repeated the specific allegations they had heard from the parents and then checked them out with the child to determine their truthfulness and accuracy. This tended to happen only when children were not forth coming with the disclosures that they had made previously to their parents. There is no doubt that at least initially in each interview. the interviewers were directed by information they had available to them from others. Despite this. it would be unfair to suggest that their goal was solely to confirm parents' preconceptions.
27) The interviewer should consider alternative hypotheses for the information provided and test them out in the next interview.
It was difficult to comment directly on this issue with respect to the Ellis investigation. as I was not privy to the discussions in the team meetings and the consultation that followed the interviews-of all the 118 children. However,given the conservative number of children that actually became complainants compared to the number of children initially interviewed (about 15%), this screening process and consideration of alternative hypotheses must have occurred in many of the cases.
28) The interviewer should have an open mind to a disclosure or non disclosure from a child.
There was nothing to suggest that the interviewers did not have an open mind to the possibility of a disclosure. On the contrary, in many of the interviews of the trial complainant, there also appeared to be an underlying healthy skepticism on the part of the interviewer, which translated into challenges to the veracity of the information being provided by the child. Reminders that only true things could be talked about in the room and asking the children if they were sure that the things they were describing were true were examples of this balanced skepticism.
In some interviews however, accepting non-disclosures from children when then had heard differently from parents was difficult. There were a few occasions when an interviewer had difficulty accepting the child's information that nothing more had happened to them, and repeated the question "Did anything else happen?" several times. Many children generally resisted providing more information and were able to respond in the negative. However some children did not and it is a valid criticism that a few children were coerced into talking about things they did not want to share, or may not have not happened exactly as described.
29) The interviewer should familiarize her (his) self with the child's verbal abilities and level of comprehension and knowledge base, and employ language that the child understands (Walker, 1993).
In my observation of the videotaped interviews, I found that overall the language and phraseology of the questions asked across the evidentiary interviews was are appropriate and great care was exercised by interviewers to employ the children's terminology for body parts and access their knowledge of the bodily functions. As well, there was an effort made to evaluate the children's comprehension of simple instructions and directions.
30) The interviewer must be vigilant with respect to a child's demeanor and non-verbal cues in the interview and respond accordingly.
Overall the interviews were responsive to the children, but there were valid criticisms that some children were tired and did not wish to continue, others resistant, others distracted and many upset. Despite this, the interviewers attempted to persevere in the questioning.
31) The interviewer should develop good rapport with the child being interviewed.
In nearly every interview I observed, good rapport was established. There were a few interviews where children expressed that they did not want to be there, or were angry at the number of repeated questions they were asked. For the most part the interviewers worked around the resistance nicely, by distracting the child. empathizing, and allowing them to play for a while, before resuming the questioning. There were a few situations, that I felt the child's rapport with the interview was compromised by the interviewer's need to get the disclosure. Having said that, I recognize how very difficult it is to keep a child engaged in an interview process when the topic is upsetting and the questions are intrusive.
32) The interview should always be videotaped, as it preserves the child's statement, and is a record of what is said and done by both the interviewer and the child. The videotaping should follow strict guidelines with respect to stating the time and date of the interview, and accounting for any absences due to breaks.
All the interviews submitted at the depositions hearing and trial were videotaped. I assume that all the 118 interviews were taped. The videotaping procedures and sound quality were excellent (except for one tape where there appears to have been technical difficulties). The allegation that there was discussion of disclosure material outside the interview room with the monitor or the interviewer was not supported by anything the children said.
33) Interviews should be carried out as soon as possible, following a disclosure.
Given the volume of interviews and the timeline (approximately one year) there appears to have been an effort to expedite the interviews, but from the perspective of the parents and Mr. Ellis, it must have felt like the investigation dragged on. Due to incremental disclosures made by the children to their parents, it was likely not always possible to schedule immediate interviews given the volume. The risk of course in such situations was that the child's memory for the details they initially provided could fade and their motivation to repeat the information at a later date could lessen.
34) The timing of the interview should coincide with the child's day time schedule (avoid nap times, meal times etc.).
I am not able to comment except that most of the interviews appeared to be mid to late morning or early afternoon.
35) The length of the interview should depend on the child's age and tolerance, usually not more than an hour, and less if the child shows signs of fatigue, boredom, or distractibility. Breaks are advisable as a means of encouraging a child to stay longer, especially if the interview has only just begun, and the child is a reluctant participant. It is important to remember that there is a fair degree of variability in children's concentration levels and their tolerance for being separated from their parents.
There were some valid criticisms made by defence at trial of a few interviews where children were obviously tired or becoming distracted, and the interviewer persevered in their questioning despite this. Having reviewed all the tapes submitted to trial, in particular the ones of the six children upon which convictions were obtained. I do not believe that this was a significant factor in diminishing the reliability of the evidence gathered. There were no blatant negative effects.
36) The interviewer should determine in the first few moments of the interview, the child's understanding of the purpose of the interview and to whom the child has previously spoken to about their concerns.
In all the videotaped interviews submitted at trial, this was routinely done.
37) The interviewer should insure that the child knows the difference between the truth and lies and can give an example of a promise. The interviewer should remind the child of the seriousness of the interview- ie. the importance of not lying and of only telling the truth. Their knowledge of the repercussions of not telling the truth should be evaluated by asking them what happens if they lie about something at home or at school.
This was generally done, and quite creatively compared to taped interviews I have reviewed in other cases. (In situations where the child is being re-interviewed the following day, I do not feel that it is necessary to go over the same territory in an inquiry, as there is no reason to assume that the child's understanding would have changed. A simple reminder of the importance of telling the truth and a promise to do so would be sufficient. However, I understand that in New Zealand. this is a statutory requirement.)
38) The interviewer should routinely inform the child at the beginning of an interview that they can refuse to answer a question, they can say they don't know an answer or that then don't remember something, if that is indeed the case. The interviewer should advise the child to tell them immediately if they don't understand a question, and not to answer questions they don't understand.
This was not routinely done across interviews. but was indirectly implied to the children in the general direction to only tell the truth in the room. and to only talk about real things they knew about. On a few occasions, the interviewers queried whether children were able to remember details or not, when there was no response forthcoming. In response children would indicate that they forgot or then didn't know. As well, there were some children who on their own would indicate that they did not understand a question. and the interviewer then modified the question. Although I do not believe that there were any examples of interviews submitted at trial,( in particular with respect to the seven complainant children where convictions were reached). which created "false disclosures of central details" because children believed they needed to come forth with an answer whether they had one or not: I do feel that it is likely that there were some hazy peripheral details that may have been filled in by the children. in their belief that they should have remembered those things as part of their narrative account.
39) The interviewer should begin the interview with a free narrative format, for example a very open ended question like "What have you come to talk to me about today?" or "Can You tell me what happened?" rather than a direct question like "what did the accused do to you?" This should be followed with statements like "Tell me more" or "Then what happened?".'
This was routinely attempted in the beginning in most of the interviews. The interviewers already knew why the child had come for an interview, so their general question was usually one which asked "what have you come to talk about today?". In all cases, it was because either a child had made a disclosure, or another child had disclosed something involving that child, or there was more clarification needed Generally, all three interviewers began with one or more open ended questions, and worked down to direct questions for clarification. There were exceptions. The problem they encountered was that most children provided a few bare details in their initial disclosure, and the rest of the information was solicited through more direct questions. This is not atypical of interviews with young children who require cues in order to retrieve their memories and provide relevant information.
40) More explorative questions should follow open ended questions, but direct questions should only be used when it is absolutely required to obtain necessary details, and or to go over territory that has already been introduced by the child. Direct confirmatory questions should be used at the close of an interview to summarize the information and to check again that the interviewer has understood the child accurately.
The use of direct and leading questions became an issue in the Ellis investigation. Having reviewed all the relevant tapes, I would have to agree that there were occasions when the number of direct or leading questions employed was too high. It was true that confirmatory questions were employed at the end of most interviews which helped to confirm the disclosures.
41) The interviewer should check the child's `source monitoring' with respect to the information they are disclosing about other children, in particular if there are allegations that the child may have heard about other's disclosures through their parents, or has spoken with other children about their experiences. Differentiating between children's second hand knowledge of events, and their own observations is crucial.
This was one of the major criticisms put forward by the defence for the accused with respect to the interviews. However, contrary to the defence position that the interviewers did not check for the sources of the children's memories, it was my impression from viewing the videotaped interviews that the interviewers did ask the children directly if the information they were providing was from their own experiential memory (ie that they actually saw it happen) or from their parents' information to them.
42) Repeated interviews should only be carried out under a number of different conditions. They are advisable if a) there is reason to believe that the child has more to disclose, or b) if the first interview is inconclusive despite documented worrisome symptomatology and secondary information from other children which points to the child as one of the victims. They are also advisable when children are very young, especially four and under (Everson, 1992; Hewitt and Friedrich, 1991). In fact in the case of very little children, an average of three to six hours of child contact over two to four appointments is suggested. Care however should be taken not to unduly burden or stress children with repeated interviews that force them to relive their abusive experiences. If a child has made a clear disclosure, it is not necessary to have them return and repeat it over and over. As well the child should not be left with the idea that they should produce more information about an incident even if there isn't more to tell.
Examination of the schedule of interviews indicates that at the depositions stage there were only six children who had more than three interviews: At trial only three children X, Y and Z. had more than three interviews. Not all of their interviews were shown to the fury. There a few cases where I felt that the additional interviews were not necessary.
43) The interviewer should gently but firmly challenge bizarre impossible accounts, while keeping an open mind and trying to understand why a child would make such a disclosure. Had they been tricked into believing certain things occurred in a certain way? It is always important to determine the authenticity of the disclosure information.
This was effectively done in many of the interviews. For example, when the following questions were asked a) where everyone else was in the Creche when the incidents were allegedly occurring? b) why did you not tell someone before about the abuse or c) how is it that no one noticed any injuries from the pointed objects or noticed you crying. d) how come you didn't burn in the ovens?" There is always the concern that if one reacts with too much cynicism to what appears to be a bizarre account of abuse, the child will clam up in the interview, and not disclose anymore. Interviewers must strike a balance between a gentle challenge and outright negation of a child's story. In my opinion, this was definitely done in the interviews of the six complainant children whose cases resulted in convictions.
44) Interviewers should use a variety of media in interviewing young children. These can include drawings by the children of their experiences and the places where events occurred, pre drawn anatomical drawings where children can identify body parts and terms they use to describe them, miniature dolls and doll furniture to demonstrate scenes and activities, and less frequently under specific conditions, anatomically correct dolls to identify specific sexual acts and bodily parts. In my opinion, and this is supported by the clinical literature, such methods can assist a child in demonstrating what happened when they lack the vocabulary to do so. With respect to the anatomically correct dolls, they should be used only by interviewers trained in their use (Robin, 1991), and only once a child has attempted to verbalize or has demonstrated where on their body something has occurred, but is having difficulty explaining how they were positioned and exactly what transpired. One should be prepared for the argument that they are suggestible. Their use is routinely challenged, and as such one must decide if they are going to really be of assistance.
Interestingly, I noticed that the anatomically- correct dolls were used more frequently in the beginning of the investigation, when the interviews just started. but their use tapered off (was that as a result of feedback from the psychologist monitoring the interviews?). I did not see examples of misuse of the toys. dolls and drawing activities in the interviews. that would in any way affect the integrity of the evidence.
Defence arguments that the play activities detracted from the seriousness of the interview, or caused children to fantasize and not talk about real thins to do with the allegations were not in my opinion demonstrated in the interviews that I observed. This was a non issue. There was only one situation where there was some confusion about a child's description of the colour of the urine which was produced by the offender (She responded `red and green' and she was using red and green markers at the time). In that case she may have taken the question literally and was replying that the colours she was using were red and green). In any event this was not significant with respect to her evidence, or to the case.
A clear example of how diligently some children tried to portray events was captured in the creation of the Creche was evident by R. who took great pain to place things as he remembered them.
45)Specific details provided by a child in their interviews are best not shared with their parents, until all the interviews are over for that child, and for other children as well who are involved in the case and might be affected by hearing the details, if it were leaked.
From what I was able to glean from the evidence, parents were routinely informed of what their children said in their interviews. This was unfortunate, because of the possibility of parents sharing this information with other parents. However the reality in this case was that the parents generally knew the disclosure details anyway, as their children had previously disclosed to them. a fact which triggered the formal interview in the first place. The problem of parents sharing the information is of course a separate issue.
46) An attempt should be made to evaluate the consistency of the information provided by a child across their different interviews (if there is more than one interview). One should take into consideration the fact that young children will vary the way in which they describe the same incident, because they are likely to stress different aspects and the order of their presentation. If there have been many separate incidents of similar acts but in different locations, or acts which occurred in the presence of different people; children's abilities to differentiate exactly what happened and who was present on each occasion will be less well developed than an adult's. Therefore consistency should be expected only with respect to central rather than peripheral or incidental details of an incident. Central details are ones such as the identity of the offender, and the different acts perpetrated, but not necessarily the exact location, timing, or positioning, or number of incidents.
Generally, interviewers did attempt to revisit previous allegations and search for consistency in reports. If there were inconsistencies, they tried to clarify why that was so This was not always possible.
OF RELIABILITY OF THE EVIDENCE IN RESPECT
OF CHILD COMPLAINTS WHOSE CASES RESULTED IN CONVICTIONS
First interview: This child complainant was primed to talk about the accused in her interview, which suggests that she was aware of the purpose of the meeting. She began immediately with the least intrusive act involving herself (exposure) and then went onto describe what she had witnessed happening to two other children. She then provided considerable detail in response to more direct questions about what she had seen. She demonstrated sexual knowledge well beyond her years. She provided a clear disclosure of sexual abuse involving herself in response to a direct question. Once again there was considerable detail. In response to a direct question, she was able to identify the source of her memory for the abusive incidents which involved the other children - her own eye witness experience. In response to a direct question about the term she used to describe the semen which went into her mouth, she acknowledged her mother had explained what the substance was `baby stuff'. She described feeling ill a number of times throughout the interview when describing the oral sex This ill feeling in the interview was consistent with her described reaction to having to swallow semen.
Throughout the interview, she demonstrated appropriate affect, and was obviously anxious and uncomfortable with the information she had to disclose. The fact that her allegations began with a less intrusive act to a more intrusive act is typical pattern of disclosures in children. When asked a forced two- choice question about whether she ever went out of the Creche with the offender, she answered that she went for walks, and then added only that she did not like to do so.
She was able to explain the circumstances surrounding her disclosure to her mother prior to coming to the interview. She understood the duty to tell the truth, and was intelligent and conscientious. She paid attention to the questions being asked, and corrected the interviewer on one occasion, when she used the offender's name instead of a child's as part of a question. When she did not respond to a question, it was my impression that she was upset with the material she was discussing. Her last disclosure that she was touched in her groin area with the offender's penis, occurred following a request by her to leave the interview. She was then not prepared to discuss any details surrounding that act, and wanted to leave.
The interviewer conducted a sound evidentiary interview, using open ended questions initially and gradually moving to more direct questions. There was good rapport throughout the interview, despite the child's discomfort with the topic. The use of media (in particular the anatomically- correct dolls) was appropriate, in that other dolls were used first, and the child gave a verbal description of the acts before she was asked to demonstrate using the dolls. This was a good interview all around. Second interview: The second interview was more difficult to conduct, as the child was anxious from the start and she wanted her mother who was in the other room. She was less cooperative generally and her demeanor suggested that she was quite nervous. She initially played for a long while with the toys, and was less keen to talk about the offender. Using anatomically correct dolls, she was asked to identify body parts and junctions which she did. This was a good method of moving towards the discussion of the abuse, as the interviewer was able to ask her a question about her vagina. In response to a direct question re who had seen her vagina, she mentioned the accused, and demonstrated. There was incremental disclosure in response to a direct question about seeing the offender's penis, and another sexual act was described in more detail by her.
The child was particularly mature and candid in her expression of empathy for the littler children whom she felt were afraid of the accused. She was honest in saying that she wanted to leave the interview.
In the interview, the interviewer employed a few general open ended questions and then immediately introduced direct questions. Given that the first interview was the previous day, it was not in my view unreasonable for the interviewer to pose a leading question using information the child had mentioned the day before. Again there was appropriate use of the anatomically-correct dolls. Overall this was another good evidentiary interview.
Third interview: The third interview was difficult as well, as the child identified that it was scary to talk about the offender. Once again she seemed primed to talk about the offender, despite her anxiety. However she needed reassurance from the interviewer that the offender would not know that she had told. She demonstrated considerable anxiety when describing a non-sexual abuse incident which scared her- the dunking of her head by the accused under water in the pool at QEII, and her belief that she was going to drown. She shared the reasons for her late disclosure about the other incidents- threats by the accused, and once again she appeared worried. She disclosed more sexual abuse, but hail difficulty describing the position of her self and the accused when he attempted to penetrate her vagina with his penis. She also talked about attending the offender's home.
She appeared to have adult information in that she was aware of the reason for her recent blood test, "because of the possibility that the accused had hurt her body".
The interviewer used a combination of open ended questions followed by more direct questions. There was an evaluation of the child's `source monitoring' once again, when she was asked how many children had told her details about the offender. The major criticism of this interview is that despite the child asking to end the interview a number of times, the interviewer went on to ask many more questions of her. From an evidentiary point of view the interview was sound, but the child was unhappy because she was not listened to when she asked to leave. There is no doubt that she was anxious and frightened about disclosing more details of the offender's behavior towards her.
Fourth interview: In the fourth interview, the interviewer began with a leading question "I know that you've been some places with Peter", and then a more general question "Tell me all the places". The child had mentioned being taken to OEM to swim with the offender, and that she had been to the offender's home in the previous interview, so the interviewer did not actually suggest something the child had never mentioned before. However, there was a better way to frame that question so as not to suggest to her that she was taken more places than the QEII and his home.
There was an incremental disclosure when the child mentioned that she had been abused by other adults as well. The child was not prepared to use the anatomically correct dolls to demonstrate the abuse, and she refused to simulate one of the abuser's faces. The child actually hid from the camera, behavior indicative of her distress with the process. She wondered out loud when it would all be decided, clearly more evidence of her own anxiety and the pressure she was feeling. She was concerned that the offender would deny the allegations. In this interview, she was very vocal about her fears of the offender.
The rapport was not as good in this interview, as the child was distressed and difficult to console. It was obvious that she had made incremental disclosures to her mother prior to coming, and these included being taken to other locations and sexually abused by others. With this information in mind, the interviewer directed her line of questioning almost immediately to solicit this information from the child. There was as a result more leading questions in this interview than in the first three.
It appears that the child's mother was saying mildly negative things about the offender -"his family doesn't like him" which came out spontaneously in the interview. The interviewer as well was negative in her comment about talking to the offender "No I talk to kids-1 don't talk to people like him'.
Overall, this interview was not as well conducted as the first three, but there were no serious flaws in the interview style which could be said to have negatively affected the integrity of the child's evidence.
Fifth interview: In the fifth interview, the child began by announcing that she didn't have much to tell the interviewer. She did provide an incremental disclosure involving other adults in response to an open ended question. Once again she demonstrated considerable anxiety, holding her bear and claiming to feel ill. She was clearly fed up with the interview process, and wanted the opportunity to tell the Judge (seemingly to get the whole thing over). Unfortunately, the interview continued well beyond what she could tolerate, and despite the fact that she announced that she had nothing more to say, she was ignored and more questions were repeatedly asked of her. She maintained her ground and resisted the subtle suggestion that there was more she, had to tell. She provided no further disclosures and no more details, just repeated her earlier disclosure information.
The interviewer's style of eliciting information was somewhat coercive in the latter part of the interview. As it turned out this tape was not shown to the jury at trial.
Sixth interview: There was a sixth interview the next day which I understand was not shown to the jury either. Without going in to any great detail, I did not see why this interview was necessary in the first place, and of all the interviews carried out, it was the weakest from an evidentiary standpoint, as the child was resistant to being interviewed.
Overall the evidence in the first four interviews obtained from this child complainant was reliable and not the result of suggestibility factors in the interview process, or poor source monitoring on her part. Her disclosures were very convincing given her age and level of maturity. The interview style produced good evidentiary interviews.
Testimony at court:
Z, was a good witness in court, and did not waiver on the central details of the allegations. She was adamant that the offender had sexually abused her. She admitted to having difficulty remembering the order and nature of some of the questions asked of her by her mother. She also had some memory problems with respect to when the interviews occurred. This is very reasonable given the length of time that had passed. Overall she held up well, and spontaneously offered insights and comments which in my view lent credibility to her testimony.
Potential External Contamination by Parental and other involvement:
With respect to the issue of contamination through her contact with other children, I do not feel that this was an influential factor in her disclosures. Her contact with Child T, and S, did not in my opinion contaminate her evidence.
The role of her mother in shaping her disclosures was more difficult to ascertain. On the one hand her mother presented as reasonable and appreciative of the importance of not contaminating her child's evidence, in her evidence at trial. On the other hand, she also conceded that she did not follow police direction in February 1991, regarding not sharing details from other children's disclosures with her own child and vice versa. She actually admitted asking very direct questions of her child prior to her first interview, and later on as well. It is also clear that she shared a lot of information with other mothers about their children, in particular with parents of Y, S, V,. Prior to her child's first interview, her contact was mainly with two parents (B and D), whose children were not complainants at trial, but whose disclosures certainly triggered the investigation, and the offender's arrest respectively.
She was away on holiday at Christmas time for several weeks between the end of December and some time in January. This was before her child's first interview Feb. 27th. On Feb 10th, according to her evidence she told her daughter that another child (S,) had made a self disclosure- reporting that she was taken by the offender into the washroom and was shown his penis. According to Z,'s mother she did not have specific knowledge of anything that had happened to her own child, when she told her this. She reported that her daughter began to disclose her own information, and she then asked more direct questions to elicit more details. She also reported that her slaughter over the next few months spoke spontaneously of the offender and the abuse.
This mother's involvement with the support group occurred after her child's disclosure interviews which resulted in charges and later convictions Z's mother began attending regular meetings in July 1992 every two weeks. From that time on she became involved with the mother of X, and admitted putting allegations from Child X to her daughter that were reported to her by mat mother. She had a lot of phone and other contact with parents of other child complainants.
However, having reviewed the mother's notes of their discussions and her evidence at trial, I was not convinced that she had significantly influenced the content of her daughter's disclosures in her first four interviews. If anything, she may have affected the order in which the child disclosed her information by the nature of the questions put to her, but not the specific details.
The mother's notes were valuable as they shed light on the nature of the discussions she had with her daughter, and showed her willingness to share that information with the investigators. Some of the information the child gave to her mother was not ever mentioned in her interviews, but was very interesting, due to it's similarity to what was provided by other children in their interviews. For example she described: 1) a circle incident like R, and X, 2) photos being taken like X, although in a different context; 3) food placed up her bottom like T, 4) 'poos' placed on her, 5) taking a bath with the offender like S, 6) sharp objects placed in her bum like R, and X, 7) that the offender (s) laughed at the children during the abuse - several children said this peculiar thing; 8) she identified other common child victims, many of whom made their own disclosures.
There was also evidence of consistency in her disclosures to her mother and to the interviewer, but a lot more information was provided to her mother about other incidents.
Other clinical indices of reliability:
A major indicator of reliability in this child's disclosures were the many contextual and experiential details provided by her with respect to the abuse. These details in my view, went a long way to support the allegations that she had indeed experienced sexual abuse first hand, as well as witnessed the sexual abuse of others. Two other significant indices of clinical reliability, were the child's symptomatology prior to the investigation, and in the aftermath of the disclosure, (as described by her mother in her evidence), and the child's overall demeanor and sincerity in her formal interviews.
In summary, with respect to Z, the evidence upon which the four guilty charges were based, was in my opinion reliable and emerged within the context of well conducted investigative interviews. Although her mother did not follow the police directive, I did not believe that she contaminated her child's evidence to the degree that it was unreliable.
First interview: The child did not appear to be `primed' for the interview. In response to an open ended question, he mentioned the offender first, saying bad things happened at the Creche. He demonstrated that he was able to separate out that there were good and bad things about the offender. He was extremely meticulous in his recreation of the Creche using the doll furniture. He corrected the interviewer if the toys were not in the right place. He clearly described the threats used by the offender to maintain his silence, and his demeanor was consistent with a child who was fearful. He was very reluctant to tell how the offender was mean, and he did not want to give the names of other victims. His source monitoring for his information was evaluated, and he was able to differentiate what he had heard, from what he saw. He did not disclose that anything had happened to him at first, but then admitted that the offender had "done wees in his mouth" after the interviewer asked him a leading question. He then minimized the amount that went into his mouth, saying only a little. He gave a clear description of an erect penis.
The interviewer asked general open ended questions at first and then moved to more direct questions. There was an inquiry into the child's understanding of truth, lies and promises, and there was good rapport throughout the interview. The only criticism of the interview, was the repeated questioning towards the end of the interview, regarding all the names of the other children involved- this did not however result in a disclosure. Overall it was a good evidentiary interview.
Second interview: The second interview contained many more direct and leading questions, and the interviewer appeared to be aware of allegations he had made to his mother before the interview. Despite her repeated efforts to solicit more information, he was not forthcoming with further disclosures about himself, and he appeared fearful of the threats made by the accused that he'd go to jail or die. Like complainant Z he referred to " dunking children in the pond" as a mean thing that was done by the offender. He reiterated his first disclosure of 'wees in the children's faces', but was very reluctant to mention other children's names despite indicating that he witnessed it. After many leading questions, he agreed that he too was a victim.He was uncomfortable admitting this.
There were some problems with this interview as it had a coercive favour to it, and contained many repeated leading questions. The saving grace was that the child had previously given these disclosures in the first interview which was conducted more objectively.
Third interview: The child was ready for the interview, announcing that he had a lot to say. More allegations came forward unsolicited at first, involving other accused as well, and a lot of contextual details regarding abuse which took place at another location outside the Creche Throughout this interview, his affect was appropriate, and he was serious about the information provided. Many of the allegations made by him in this interview were strikingly similar to those of Child X; (the circle incident, photos taken, names of other abusers, women as abusers, sharp objects in his bum, secret room where abuse took place, children having to hurt each other). He did not have contact with that child to my knowledge.
The interviewer's techniques in this interview were appropriate. There was less pressure to disclose, and many more open ended questions followed by direct questions. In my opinion this interview resulted in the child offering reliable evidence.
Child R's court testimony:
The most convincing aspect of the child's testimony was his description of his fears of the offender's threats and his belief that they would come true if he told. His mother in her evidence supported the fact that he thought he would die if he told. He was also forthcoming in his description of his mother's questions to him, acknowledging that she asked him direct questions to which he responded yes. He then elaborated. He had some difficulty in the cross-examination and was confused a number of times about who was present, and where different abusive incidents occurred Under pressure he admitted that he couldn't remember certain events, such as when the stick was placed in his bottom by the offender. He agreed that he could have been mistaken. However, he was consistent in his allegation that the offender urinated in his mouth. He also maintained through several challenges, that he was placed in an oven and refused to renege on this allegation. He gave many details about being on the roof and in a room of the Cranmer centre where abuse took place. This was interesting in that testimony by a police officer who did the scene investigation of the Cranmer centre supported his description of the man holes on the roof, saying these things could only be seen from someone who had been up there.
Overall he was a reasonable child witness.
Parental involvement and potential for contamination:
A significant feature of R,'s mother in her testimony at trial, was that she indicated that her son had disclosed that the offender had done wees and poos on children well before the investigation hall started She did not take it seriously at that time. She denied that she knew about all the allegations before she heard them from him, and therefore she denied influencing his responses. She admitted to only two direct questions; one related to the offender pulling down children's pants and touching their bottoms, and one related to whether he had seen videos of bulls, both of which she claimed led to a flood of disclosure information. She denied knowing about the details of the allegations made by P, and O, even though she spoke with their mother 'She claimed that her son did not have much contact with other Creche children only P, and Q, on one occasion much later. She said she was not aware of all the things other children were saying until late June or July 92. She did however see the list prepared by Mrs. D around that time frame, and was then aware of some of the other allegations made by other children.
This mother attended the first December meeting, and the Knox Hall meeting, but appeared not to be involved with the other parents to any degree in between the two meetings. She claimed not to know that the investigation was ongoing, until late March. Unlike many of the other parents, she did not have previous friendships with the other mothers per se.
Her testimony suggested that she did not repeatedly question her son about the offender or the Creche, and that when she did question him, she did not use leading questions beyond the two she described. In my view contamination by her of the child's disclosures was not a significant issue.
Clinical Indices of Reliability:
The child's symptomatology as described by his mother both prior to and after his disclosure were very consistent with a child who had been sexually traumatized and terrorized by threats to his personal safety. His behavior was not the result of questioning by his mother regarding other's allegations to do with the offender and the Creche.
In summary with respect to R, the evidence he provided to the interviewer and the court, upon which a finding of guilt was obtained, was reliable and not tainted by the investigative process or by parental contamination.
This child was only interviewed on one occasion. In that interview she described the offender as a `mean bugger', who threw her in the sandpit, sat on other children, called her and other children nick names. The interviewer asked several leading questions regarding the bad things she'd told her parents about the offender, and hinted that tickling was one of them. She spoke of the tickling at great length. Later, unsolicited the child offered that the offender had poked her in the crotch, and that she had told him to stop because she did not like it. It was not clear how many times it happened Throughout the interview, she was very histrionic, and used expressive vocabulary, raising her voice and demonstrating with her arms. At times she appeared quite agitated, and angry with the offender. She was very bright and articulate.
The interviewer was obviously aware of her allegation to her parents, and was very direct in attempting to solicit the disclosure. However, the child did disclose on her own to interviewer, and not in response to a leading question. The interview was very straightforward, and appropriately conducted.
Child's testimony in court:
The child was a good witness in court, and although she did have trouble remembering some of the peripheral details of her disclosure, she was steadfast that she had been poked by the offender in the crotch. Her description of her disclosure to her parents was consistent with their testimony.
Parental involvement and potential for contamination:
Parents did not attend the Dec. meeting despite being told about it by a mother of another Creche child They had no ongoing contact with other parents. They did attend the Knox Hall meeting out of curiosity, and decided to ask their daughter about her experiences with the offender. They started with what appeared to be a leading question, in which they told her that the police thought the offender had perhaps been doing bad touching with some of the children at the Creche. Upon hearing this, she made a confronted disclosure about inappropriate touching.
With respect to contamination of her evidence by her parents, both parents denied asking her repeated questions, or discussing the case with her. They did not share details of her allegations with other parents, or put other specific allegations to her after the first question. They arranged for art investigative interview for their daughter, but unlike other parents did not attend the support group or share stories. There is no evidence that they in any way influenced her to make erroneous allegation. There is no evidence to suggest that the child was influenced by other children either, and she did not have regular contact with the other child complainants. It appeared as though this family was isolated from the other parents and children.
Clinical Indices of Reliability:
A significant clinical indica of reliability was the evidence provided by her parents that she had disclosed to them rather forcefully that she did not like the Creche, when they drove to park in the Creche parking lot prior to a fireworks display (well before the investigation began). She was castigated for doing so. According to both parents she was often reluctant to attend the Creche the year before and would cry.
This child's symptomatology (night terrors, refusal to use the toilet at the Creche, temper outbursts, hitting her mother in the crotch) were consistent with sexual abuse having taken place in and around the toilets at the Creche.
In summary, child O's evidence of inappropriate touching upon which there was a finding of guilt (indecent assault) was reliable, and not contaminated in anyway by her parents' questioning of her, or by the nature of the evidentiary interview.
In response to an open ended question about the purpose of her interview, the child indicated that she was there to talk about the things that the offender did. She began with a description of tickling, which she said was scary because he wouldn't stop. Site described him as a person who wanted to make children scared, and disclosed that she was afraid of him. She also disclosed that she complained to a worker (other children claimed to have told her as well about things they did not like about the offender) and that another worker saw some of the incidents. In response to an open ended question as to whether there was anything else she remembered, site described `drinking games' during which the offender put his penis in her's and other children's mouths. She identified several other child victims including her sibling.
This child was very serious and attentive in the interview. In response to several direct questions, she offered a lot of contextual details with respect to the location in which this abuse occurred, the positions during the acts, the taste in her mouth etc. She was very subdued, held her blankie, and her demeanor was consistent with a child who was describing events that were troubling to her.
She also made another disclosure about inappropriate touching of her vagina and bottom, and was clear that it was not in the context of toileting. When asked, she explained her delayed disclosure to her parents "they asked if I wanted to talk to them about him": She seemed relieved. She was very convincing in her disclosures.
The investigative interview was well carried out, beginning with open ended questions, and then followed by more direct questions. This child was easy to interview, as her vocabulary was good, and she was comfortable with the interviewer. The rapport was excellent There was appropriate use of media (dolls) to assist her in demonstrating where the secret touching occurred, but it was not a necessary part of the interview. There were no suggestions made to the child about what others had said, and repeated questions were used only as a means of rechecking details. Overall the interview was sound, and her evidence reliable.
In the second interview, the child did not really add much more information, other than to identify another location where abuse occurred- a big building with escalators and people working at desks. She was insistent that other teachers were aware of what was going on at the Creche with the offender. She repeated much the same disclosures as in her first interview. She was cooperative and tried hard to answer questions She identified a number of other children (mainly other complainants).
It was apparent that the child had spoken to her mother and her mother had offered her some insights in response to her disclosures (for eg the suggestion that one location might have been the City Council building, and that there was once another male worker at the Creche that fitted his description ). In each case, the child clearly identified the source for that information as her mother and not herself.
The second interview was not shown at trial. There were no obvious problems with this interview, as the questions asked were appropriate, the rapport was good, and the interviewer was attentive to the child's responses, and clarified anything that she was unsure of. There was an attempt to evaluate the child's source monitoring and knowledge base, and some challenges with respect to inconsistencies in the child's accounts of who she had spoken to at the Creche about the abuse.
My impression is that there were concerns on the part of the Crown about contamination by the mother of the child's evidence as a result of leading questions and suggestions put to her, and the decision was not to use the interview as it occurred at the end of the investigation.
The third interview was not shown either, as it followed the taped interviews made by the mother of her discussions with the child, and there was concern that the window of opportunity for contamination had widened by this point in the investigation. This was understandable but was unfortunate as the child made clear disclosures.
Child's testimony in Court:
The child was a good solid witness, and her evidence was consistent with her previous disclosures. She had some difficulty remembering all the different discussions she had had with her mother, and what was said in each, which is understandable given the time delay. She was adamant about many things regarding the abuse; the acts, the offender, and the awareness of other staff. The only questionable comment was her description of being in an incubator as a child, in that she confused her mother's account of what had happened to her with her own memory. From mother's testimony, I deduced the fact that there was a picture of the child in an incubator with the tubes, and that explanations had been provided to her as she was growing up by her mother of her and her sibling's prematurity and need to be in an incubator. This information obviously became part of her autobiographical history, which she then claimed as her own memories. This does not suggest that she was more susceptible to difficulties in source monitoring with respect to sexually abusive events she alleged occurred.
Parental and other sources of contamination
According to the child's mother in her evidence at trial, she talked to her daughter about the Creche no more than four or five times, between the months of December 1991 and March 1992 prior to her daughter's first interview. As well, she read two books to her, one called "that's Wrong With Bottoms?" and another "A Very Touching Book": The term "secret touching" was described in the second book. In my opinion, the child's exposure to the reading material is not a concern with respect to contamination of the evidence, although it may have contributed to her motivation to disclose. It is my understanding, that this mother heard about the investigation and called Mrs. D to provide support. She conceded in her evidence that in February she heard from her that another child S had disclosed that her two children were there when the offender had put his penis in her mouth. She decided to ask a leading question of her daughter regarding the offender, by telling her what the other child had said. She claimed that she did this because her daughter was displaying concerning symptoms, and it was reported that she allegedly had witnessed something. Her son had already begun to disclose some information of his own about the offender. She reported that her daughter then disclosed sexual abuse to her, providing a lot of information on her own without being asked further questions. Altogether denied at that time knowing all the allegations that were being made by other children to their parents when she first spoke to her children.
The two tapes which this mother made of her discussions with her child in November 1992 before the last two interviews were however more problematic than her initial discussions, in that there were many leading questions, suggestions by the mother as to how the child was feeling, and information on what other children had reported As well, these tapes were made the morning after the mother had already interviewed the child the night before. This was obvious by the fact that she kept referring to what the child had already disclosed. According to her, she and the child were driving by the Creche a day earlier and this apparently triggered more memories of other things that had happened. In response to a leading question over whether she had been taken to a house with other children by the offender, the child disclosed that she had also been to the offender's house. She then gave many details on her own about other offenders and their activities such as hitting children on their backs and tickling them. She also included the curious detail of the offender laughing when the children were being harassed (this has come up in many complainants' disclosures). In the taped interviews, this mother was very supportive, and responsive to her child's demeanor, which she labelled anxious (we of course cannot "see" this). There were some other disclosures in response to open ended questions (the offender urinated in the corner of a room at the Creche, wanted them to run through sprinklers naked, locked them up in dark rooms and scared them with stories of monsters).
With respect to contact with other parents of complainants, this mother attended informal support group meetings between December 1991 and March 1992, but denied that children's allegations were discussed at those meetings. In fact she mentioned that the group had sought legal advice around the operation rules for the group, in order to protect the privacy of the children who were coming forward She did admit that this rule only applied to the meetings and not to separate conversations outside the room. She also attended the two information meetings and in July she joined another support group just for complainant parents, in which the team social worker and someone from Specialist services participated. It appears that her main contacts were with Mrs. D, S's mother, R's mother and Z's mother.
There is no doubt that information was shared between the parents about their children's allegations as the children were naming each other as victims to their parents. Given that the children alleged that most of the abuse was carried out in the presence of other children, this is understandable. The fact that the children often described the same things does not mean that their disclosures were only the result of suggestibility factors, they may have had the same things happen to them!
This child had a sibling who was also a complainant, and therefore there was obvious contact between the two children. However, the child denied talking to her brother about the details of her experiences when she was testifying. There was some contact between child R, this child and her sibling, and indeed a disturbing incident in which this child witnessed the child R, masturbated openly in a car. In addition, her sibling was displaying severe behavioral and emotional symptomatology, which may have contributed to her own anxiety. This would not have been sufficient to cause her symptomatology.
Clinical Indices of reliability:
Two comments made by the child in her second audio taped interview with her mother, in my view provide support for her credibility; 1) when she declared that the worst thing one could do in the world is tell lies, and secondly 2) when she agreed that she didn't like remembering the abuse, and said "It's too awful, stop me remembering, give me some spice and special medicine from the chemist to stop me remembering, it is too awful".
Her behavioral symptomatology (toileting problems etc.) during her time at the Creche, and after her disclosure (nightmares, fears etc.) were consistent with having being sexually traumatized and frightened. Frequently, when children begin to disclose there is an increase in symptomatology, consistent with intrusive thoughts brought on by discussing the abuse and remembering details.
Overall, while I agree that this mother's questioning of her child was too intrusive prior to her interviews in October and December of 1992 this was not in my view the case prior to the child's first interview. Given the quality of the first investigative interview, the child's clarity and demeanor, and the contextual details provided by her, as well as her performance on the stand, it would be my opinion that the evidence upon which the convictions (unlawful sexual connection and indecent assault) were made was reliable.
In the first interview, this child described her bare bottom being painted by the offender (there is a photo taken of this), and that she was angry when it happened but did not say so because she thought he would hurt her. She was then asked a direct question as to whether the offender had indeed hurt her, to which she responded, no. Was this because she only equated hurting with physical abuse not sexual abuse? She then offered that he had said "yucky things" in the toilet, and wanted the children to drink wees. In response to a direct question, she disclosed that she witnessed the children drinking wees, and that she closed her mouth when it was her turn. Her reason for not disclosing earlier is that the offender told her that her mother would not like her. She later disclosed going to the offender's home, and that Child Z was there and another child. ("Interestingly" deleted)She reported that the offender's mother was there (several other children have said the same). She was clear when demonstrating in her booklet that she brought, what she drew and what her mother drew in order to tell her story. In response to a leading question regarding having a bath with the offender, she volunteered that she was in the bath with him, and he washed her bum and vagina at his house. She offered a lot of detail about the bath scene, but only in response to numerous direct questions. She said she was not initially upset about having to take the bath.
This interview was very long, in part because before she began to disclose, the child talked at length about different things that had happened in response to an open ended question. Towards the end of the interview, the interviewer referred a number of times to things the child had told her mother, suggesting that she had said more to her mother than she was disclosing in the interview. There was pressure on the child to disclose. Throughout the interview, there were times the child was distracted, and quite hyperactive. Her demeanor suggested that this was a difficult interview. Often she felt unsafe- She wanted to know where her mother was. The most controversial question in my view occurred in the following interaction at the end of the interview. The interviewer asked the child "Is there anything that is just too hard to tell me today, that's happened? The child answered "no': "What about something to do with the bath, is there anything too hard to tell me about the bath? "Yep there is, yep there is". She then pressured the child into disclosing. The response was that the offender defecated in the bath. It is understandable that she would be reluctant to disclose this. The child's description of that act, did lend credibility to her disclosure, but it would have been better from an evidentiary point of view, if she had spontaneously reported that without the pressure.
The use of the booklet the child made with her mother, as a medium in the interview was not something that I've seen done before, but at least it gave the interviewer an opportunity to review what the child had previously talked about at home. It enabled her to assess the child's source monitoring as well, and clarified mother's involvement. The rapport with the child was good throughout the interview. Despite the fact that there were some leading questions, the information that the child offered appeared credible, in that she offered many details and insights which were not in response to direct questions.
The second interview began with the interviewer informing the child that she had heard that the child had more things to tell. The interviewer employed dolls to assist the child in describing the bath scenes. The child pointed out that she used a wash cloth when she washed the offender's bottom, because she did not want to touch the penis (interesting detail). She also described that he had waterproof cushions in the bath (another interesting detail). She gave a clear disclosure of inappropriate touching of her vagina and then told of the touching of her bottom as well. In response to a blatantly leading question, she conceded that he put his finger in her bottom in the bath. This is after she described how he did this to a puppy he brought to the Creche. In response to a direct question as to whether this really happened to her, she answered that it was something that really happened. She denied being upset when disclosing this information, but she was nervous from my observations.
The interviewer used more leading questions in this interview ( especially in relation to the digital penetration of her bottom), but did check the child's source monitoring and her truthfulness. The rapport was good, and there was appropriate use of dolls (ordinary baby dolls) to assist the child to simulate the bath scene, but it was difficult to tell exactly what she was doing. Overall the interview was adequate, except for the above leading question. It is my understanding that the second interview was not shown at trial because of the contentious question.
In the third interview, the child indicated that she had come back to talk about the bath stuff, and that it was scary. She described the vaginal penetration in the bath as "sexing" (a term not mentioned by any other child). She gave a fair bit of detail saying that his penis was yucky and hairy. She made a similar allegation to child Z, and others about the offender's mother kicking her, that the offender drove a car, and that he laughed when she was being hurt! In this interview she gave a lot more information, usually in response to more direct questions.
The interview was quite long, and there were times when it was clear that the child was having difficulty talking about the abuse. There was a very blatant leading question regarding the insertion of a needle in her bum (it was almost phrased in the form of a guess) and as a result, that evidence was not reliable. However the allegations she made about penetration of her vagina in my mind were more credible. The problem was that her demonstration with the dolls was not clear. In this interview, the use of anatomically -correct dolls would have been an asset.
Child's court testimony:
This child's cross examination was quite long and difficult. 1 noted that she had difficulty remembering the order of some of the events, which was understandable. At one point when asked if she remembered the second interview she asked "What's an interview?", reminding the court that she was just a child. At least she was able to point out that she did not understand the question. She maintained her allegations about the bath, the wees in her face, the touching of her vagina and bottom, and the attempted penetration of her vagina. She also maintained that the offender had placed a needle in her bottom. The questions in my view were quite confusing for her, and expected a level of analysis that is not characteristic of a child of her age. Given that, she did manage to maintain her ground, and was consistent in the central features of her allegations.
Possible contamination by parents or others
This child's mother did not attend the December information meeting. She reported asking her child a direct question about tickling in February 1992, as a result of speaking to Q's mother. The child did not make a disclosure. The mother attended the meeting at Knox Hall in March. She heard more allegations from Z`s mother, suggesting that her child was present in two locations when abuse occurred, at the Creche and at the offenders' house. She denied knowing specific abuse allegations regarding the offender's behavior. Shortly after, apparently in the context of taking a bath together, she was alarmed by her daughter's sexualized behavior in the bath. This information only came to light at the trial, and was not in her earlier statement. She asked her daughter about the offender's house (she already had heard that children were taken there). Prior to arranging an investigative interview, she prepared a "booklet" with her child, about the different things that had happened. The booklet "On the way to Peter's house" contained very specific disclosures. This mother had considerable contact with O's mother, and her child regularly played with child Z, a number of times from June 1992 on. It was reported by both mothers that the children talked a little about the offender and the Creche (this was recorded by Z's mother). The child in her evidence indicated that this was so as well.
Clinical indices of reliability
A number of symptoms were described (sore and red vagina, fear of having a bath alone, leaving the door open to the toilet, excessive masturbation, sexualized behavior) prior to her disclosure, and after her disclosure( bouts of nausea, difficulty going to sleep, fear of being alone, sexualized play, scratched `help' in the wall). The child also had sexual knowledge beyond her years. The finding of medical support for vaginal penetration was another very significant indicia of reliability.
Overall, despite the evidence which suggests that her mother was responsible for asking her leading questions and putting together a `book' with her about her experiences, and despite the fact that there were some leading questions in her investigative interviews, the child's evidence upon which the convictions were based was reliable. I would venture to say that given the medical evidence, her other disclosure of vaginal penetration was likely reliable as well, even in light of her inadequate description using the dolls.
At the beginning of the interview, in response to an open ended question about the purpose of the child's visit, he responded by telling the interviewer that she had to ask him questions, but then volunteered that he was there to talk about the Creche. He clearly wanted the interviewer to probe the answers from him, and was obviously a very reluctant participant in the beginning of the interview. He made the comment that the offender was alright when he was at the Creche, except that he `fiddled with his rude parts' and smacked his bottom. The interviewer then went on to have him show her his knowledge of body parts and his meaning for the rude parts. The `fiddling' appeared to have occurred when his diaper was being changed- innocuous? Interestingly, when the child was asked if the fiddling felt okay or was an okay thing, the child's response was "now its not, but then it tickled" suggesting that his perception of the act had changed over time (infuenced by someone else's interpretation?).
There were many questions repeated over and over for clarification, and to check for more disclosures. Despite repeated questions, the child did not disclose anything else after his first disclosure. In fact, he became increasingly angry that the interviewer kept repeating his allegation to him. In response to a direct question about whether there was anything else that happened that he didn't like, he said no. He was not helpful in the interview, and would be somewhat sarcastic in his responses and angry, for example "I don't know, you'll have to ask him". Later when asked again if some thing more happened, he responded that there were no other things anyway.
This interview was not terribly productive, and the child was indeed a reluctant participant. The interviewer had a difficult time obtaining his cooperation, and would have been better off, aborting the interview midway, and offering to see him another time when he felt more like being there. In any event too much time was spent going over the incident in which the offender fiddled his rude parts. Given his reluctance to describe it in the first place, this was an uncomfortable process. The interviewer did establish his understanding of truth and lies and promises. The rapport was mediocre, but the interviewer did try to engage him in conversation about movies and other topics. The information provided was likely reliable, but there was nothing to suggest that sexual abuse had occurred.
The second interview occurred three months later and was the first of a triad of daily interviews. Evidently his parents had requested another interview because he had been disclosing to them other things that had happened with the offender. The child was more cooperative and seemed more comfortable with the interviewer. There were many more incremental disclosures, from less intrusive to more intrusive, beginning with things that were said and then things that were done to him. Firstly, he disclosed swearing by the offender. He then disclosed being. in the bath with the offender at his house, and that there were other adult male friends there at the time. When asked what the other friends' names were, he became somewhat defensive, and said "Why are you asking?", but then responded. His disclosure information about the bath was somewhat vague at first, but then, in response to direct questions, he provided some unusual details unsolicited (There were poos in the bath which he was made to eat, if he didn't he would have to eat a whole load the next time). He explained that the door was shut, that he didn't have a choice but to take off his clothes or the offender would do it for him, and that bad word were used by the offender after the bath. In response to a question of whether anything else happened, he disclosed that he had to touch the offender's penis at the Creche and at his house, until white stuff came out. Again he provided an interesting comment that he was not to hold the penis too hard. He provided a lot of contextual details, and sexual knowledge beyond his years in relation to that incident.
A little later in the interview, he disclosed that the offender had put his penis in his bum, and then when describing how he felt at the time, mentioned that he felt sad (I noted that in the interview, he then claimed that his eye were getting sore because of the light - was he upset or crying?). From the video, it appeared that he might have been teary. This was not addressed by the interviewer which was unfortunate.
He offered some interesting comments regarding what was said by the offender when they returned to the Creche to cover up what had occurred One curious fact that he mentioned was that the offender drove a car (this has been said by several children). He then went on to describe other offenders, and mentioned that there were other child victims as well like child U, and child Y, and another non complainant. His style of responding was quite unique. He began repeating many of the questions put to him before he answered, which was a curious feature. He also would suddenly change topic and talk about something totally different, and then return to the topic of the abuse. Although it was suggested by the defense that his affect was inappropriate (no emotions), I do not agree. Both strategies, the repeating of questions and changing topics were likely used by him to cope with his emotions, given himself time to respond and distract himself.
He described of oral penetration by several adult males in addition to the offender. He indicated that the offender took pictures with a camera and that he was laughing while the child was being abused. He mentioned the house had a ladder.
His description of oral intercourse was particularly detailed, and he said that white sticky stuff went into his mouth, he swallowed it, it tasted yucky, and it made him sick.
The interview was well conducted, with a combination of open ended and direct questions. Although there were a few leading questions, the child offered a lot of detail on his own initiative. The rapport was better than in the first interview, and the child seemed more comfortable with the interviewer. Overall I found that the interviewing style was balanced with minimal suggestion . The interview checked with the child if he had disclosed the information to anyone else, and also where he had obtained his information. The child was attentive to the questions, and responded more willingly than in his first interview.
In the third interview there were many disclosures and details provided by the child, some of which were pretty incredible. A neutral discussion occurred for the first bit, and the then the interviewer requested that they talk about what he had come back to tell her. The child obviously had a lot to tell. His last interview had been the day before, and I'm aware that there was a further disclosure to his mother, that he had not told the interviewer everything the day earlier, and this was communicated to the interviewer. In any event, he responded that there were more things about what the offender did to him that he wanted to talk about.
The interviewer then asked a series of open ended questions followed by more direct questions, which elicited the following numerous details; he was taken to a library building/ house, there were trap doors there, the offender drove, the offender's mother was present, the offender read adult sex books, other children were there including child Y, and child Z and either N or T, the children had to hurt each other, they were locked up, they were then taken to QEII afterwards and some children were dunked in the pool, other adult offenders with the names Spike, and Boulderhead and some women were present, he was given drugs to sleep-pills and needles.
In response to a direct question as to whether he had gotten hurt, he said yes and alleged that the offender and an another adult male had stuck a sharp stick and burning paper up his bum, and that pictures were taken and the offender laughed. He once again made disclosures of anal penetration, photos being taken and of being forced to jump off a ladder.
Like before, the child repeated most of the questions that he was asked, and whenever he was asked for explanations, he provided elaborate explanations. His demeanor in this interview was very matter of fact, considering the information he was providing, however he did suggest that he had felt threatened, and that he had been afraid when the things were happening. Once again, he would shift back and forth between the disclosures and playing with toys in the room.
In this interview, it was my impression that the interviewer did not sufficiently challenge the child with respect to some of the more implausible details, nor did she successfully determine the context for some of the allegations, and test out whether there was a possibility that he had been tricked into believing things happened as he said -for example, that he had been poisoned, or that the paper was actually burning when placed in his bum etc. Towards the end of the interview, the reports from the child were more and more disjointed, and at times implausible as he described them, yet there was really little challenge. The allegation that the offender had placed his penis in his bum was repeated, although with less detail this time. The earlier description in the second interview of the accused's penis against his anus was in my view reliable, and provided a detailed description of the act. This time the disclosure provided less detail and was imbedded in the context of a bizarre larger account which at times was difficult to understand Despite this, there was consistency across both interviews with respect to the allegation of attempted anal penetration by the offender.
The controversial `circle incident', the allegation of being placed in an oven, of having needles placed in his penis, and the involvement of other female teachers from the Creche in the abuse were new developments. The first allegation regarding the circle incident was offered in response to a general question about the easiest thing to start with. He responded that he wanted to talk about what the offender's friends did to him, and in that context he described the circle incident. There were no suggestive questions by the interviewer. The child identified other children present in this circle, and added a new child that was involved in the abuse. Although he mentioned that there were at least nine children, he did not remember all of them. With respect to sexual acts, the child reported that the children were naked in the circle and had to hurt each other and touch each other sexually. He described needles being placed in his penis. At that point he claimed that he felt sick and was going to throw up. He is not able to say why he a feeling that way. Later he said that he had a tummy bug over the last three days, (interestingly, coinciding with the three days of interviews).
Given that he was interviewed the day before, the interviewer asked him why he did not tell her the new things the day before. He claimed that he just remembered. Once again many details were offered in response to direct questions. After the break, the interviewer attempted to clarify some of the details, and the child's source monitoring for the offender's house address. Apparently the child had been taken to the offender's house the day before. The child was able to say that he recognized that it was the same house he had been taken to. Later in the interviewer, he made a spontaneous disclosure of oral intercourse by the offender. The latter part of that interview was spent reviewing all the information he had provided He was remarkably consistent in his account and explanations.
The interview was long, and the information provided was no doubt shocking for the interviewer to hear. Given the disclosures from the child, I felt that the interviewer did attempt to challenge some of the details, but not all. She remained `open' to the possibility that these events occurred, if not exactly as he described, then in some semblance. There was an inquiry into his understanding of truth and lies, and he was asked to promise to tell the truth. Frequently he was asked if what he was describing was what really happened He always responded in the affirmative. The disclosures were very disturbing, to say the least. (I found it interesting that Child R made a similar description to the `circle incident' and that Child Z's mother in her notes of her discussion with her daughter contained a reference to children in a circle as well.)
The fifth interview was spent in checking as many details as possible with the child. This time there were some inconsistencies with respect to the identity of the other female teachers that were present, and a widening of the allegations with respect to the number of teachers involved This tape was also not shown to the jury.
In court the child was steadfast in his allegations, and handled the cross examination well. In particular challenges to his source monitoring regarding his understanding of the semen ejaculated in his mouth, and his identification of the places the events occurred. He was also clear about the fact that his mother had told him to tell the truth and nothing else. He was convincing in his description of the threats and his reluctance to disclose because of his fears. Even though the information provided to the court was at times bizarre, he never backed down, and denied that he was lying or mistaken.
Parental and other contamination:
The issue of parental contamination was mentioned as a serious concern in this case, and an interview was apparently canceled because it was felt that the mother's involvement (repeated suggestive questioning of the child, and bringing him places where he might have been abused) was affecting the child's disclosures and creating erroneous accounts (Masonic Hall as a location).
The mother of the child reported that she heard about the Knox Hall meeting and attended even though her child was no longer at the Creche. She claimed that before going to the meeting she did not question him. She did question him after that meeting, but denied that she knew about the allegation that children had been taken out of the Creche, or any of the details about the acts. She also denied that the child had any contact with other children before his first interview. The mother did admit that she asked her child direct questions. Despite the fact that in his first interview he did not disclose any abuse, his mother was convinced that more had happened to him, and she proceeded to ask him weekly, if the offender had done anything else to him. His behavior after the first formal interview was deteriorating and he was showing signs of distress.
The mother attended the parent support group meetings led by the DSW social worker beginning in July, and met the mothers of Child S, Child Z, and Child Y. She also attended a meeting August 4th at the parents of child Y's home, and the mother of D was there as well. She admitted that she took her son to a number of different addresses (The offender's house based on information from the father of Child Y, and other places at the request of Detective Colin Eade.). She denied that she knew of details of allegations before the child's August interviews. She also denied seeing the list prepared by the mother of Child D, even though it was reported that she had left it there for parents to read at one of the support group meeting.
She may have been confused in her sequence of information she received from other parents, and inadvertently through leading questions influenced some of the disclosures that were made by her child. However, in a letter of complaint she wrote to the team, when she heard that the last interview for her son was being canceled, she did address some of the concerns that had been raised. In particular she provided a chilling account of the child's `emotive responses when disclosing to her (screaming, crying vomiting etc). She also denied that she ever put, as she termed it such horrific details to her son. She obviously believed in the possibility of ritualistic abuse and was angry that this was an area which was causing the team reluctance and discomfort. In all, the entire situation seemed very unpleasant, and a great deal of anger was displayed with respect to the lack of reception by the `professionals' in the case towards her child's disclosures.
Of all the cases of complainant children where there were bizarre allegations, this case was the most contentious in my view. One theory I have which may help to explain the course of events is that the child was likely abused in many of the ways that he described, but his disclosures brought forth a strong post traumatic stress reaction, exaggerated fears and an over worked imagination, wherein he became increasingly suspicious of more and more people, and had difficulty differentiating threats/tricks, with events that really happened (being hung in cages). It is noteworthy that another child who was not involved with him at all, made an allegation that she was threatened with being put in a cage and taken away (Child N). She did not have contact with this child at all nor did her mother! His fears of the threats made by the offender likely increased as he disclosed the abuse.
Clinical Indices of reliability:
As with many of the other child complainants, there were some signs that he was reluctant to attend the Creche, especially some time in 1989 he did not want to attend, and that he was very quiet and withdrawn. There was a separation between parents at the time that may have contributed to this as well. There were no serious concerns re other behavior. After his first interview, his behavior deteriorated dramatically, and he started soiling, bed wetting, having temper outbursts, refusing to go to the toilet, and displaying generalized fears for his personal safety. In my view these symptoms were consistent with a child who as a result of intrusive memories of abuse which were revisited, began to decompensate and developed PTSD symptomatology. Many of the symptoms were similar to another Child P. The investigation was highly very stressful for this child. He displayed his anxiety at home and in his behavior and not in the interviews per se.
In summary, although I would agree that his mother was over involved in questioning him and taking him to sites, that she was aware of allegations by other children, and was convinced that he had been a victim of ritual abuse, it still did not account for the amount of detail that this child provided and the disclosures that he made. The unreliability of some of the details he provided about the locations may have been the result of being taken to locations which looked like where he had been (Masonic Lodge), and were probably the result of suggestion. With respect to the child wanting to please the interviewer by filling in details, it is possible that he felt that he had to embellish his accounts, but he did not seem too concerned wit her response. The descriptions he gave of the abuse with the offender contained contextual details that in my view were credible. Overall, the interviews were reasonably conducted, in particular the second and third and fourth interviews.
Although there was definitely over- involvement of the mother in the investigation process, it is my opinion that the evidence the child provided specific to the allegations upon which the four convictions were based was reliable. I would venture as well that there were aspects of the "circle incident" that were reliable as well.
After reviewing all the material that was sent, I was faced with the task of providing an opinion on reliability on the cases where convictions had occurred However in order to do so, I reviewed all the evidence that was sent tome regarding the other complainants at the trial, and the evidence of tile complainants at the depositions hearing. Due to the volume of material, and the specific mandate, it was necessary to narrow the focus.
In order to bring together my thoughts on this very lengthy and complex investigation, l decided to summarize my findings by addressing the criticisms of interviewing and investigative techniques by counsel for Mr. Ellis.
Repeated interviewing: If there are incremental disclosures, repeated interviewing is necessary. The repeated interviews were an issue only in the case of child X, as it was evident in his fifth interview that the process was contributing to increasingly bizarre and disjointed accounts in the child. There were several cases where there were repeated interviews of complainant children where there were no convictions. Some of these children were not only not forthcoming with information, but were very reluctant to be there. This was a valid criticism in those cases.
Interviewers were not neutral and objective: The interviewers were aware of the details of the allegations that the children had made to their parents prior to coming to the interviews. It can be said that they had an expectation that they would hear the same information. They were therefore primed to accept certain disclosures. This was true in the majority of the interviews that were conducted
Interviewers allowed children to bring in material they had worked on with their parents to interviews. Given that this had been already been done with parents (specifically Child S) it was probably a better idea to use the material, and check the accuracy and the child's "source monitoring" than not to use it.
Interviewers asked direct. suggestive, leading and forced choice questions: On the whole the interviewers started the interviews with open ended questions but then they reverted to direct questions.Given the ages of the children, this was an acceptable practice. There were examples of leading questions as well, to which some children responded and others did not. The use of suggestive questions appeared to happen mainly in the contest of the interviewer suggesting to the child that they had told parents certain things before coming to the interview, and could they tell them the same information. This likely served to trigger the children's memories, or at times may have decreased their apprehension about talking about things. Unfortunately, if the original material offered to parents was flawed, then it could have led to the children repeating these same things to the interviewer.
Interviewers permitted free play during the interviews which led to confusion in the children between fact and fiction: I disagree that this happened in any of the interviews that I observed It was not an issue.
Interviewers employed media such as dolls toys etc. to assist children even when they were not needed The uses of the media were generally appropriate, and there was only one or two situations where it was unnecessarily used, with no damage to the reliability of the information provided by the child.
Bizarre details were not challenged: On the whole, there was an attempt to challenge some of the more implausible accounts, however there were some instances where the interviewers were neutral in their responses and simply repeated the children's accounts. For the most part, there was a balance between challenging the children's accounts outright and gently questioning them. In the case of a few children like (R, X, and Y) more challenges were likely necessary.
Interviewers repeated details to parents after interviewers: This was a valid criticism, and one that I spoke about at length in the report in the section on MVMO investigations. The effect may have been to lead parents to encourage their children to disclose, and then the additional interviews followed.
The interviewers did not discourage the parents from questioning their children: I cannot comment on whether this was the case or not.
Interviewers did not ascertain the children's sexual knowledge: This was not a valid criticism, the interviewers routinely asked children about body parts and body functions, if they made an allegation about a private part or a sexual act.
Interviews were too long and ignored children's tiredness or reluctance: It was a valid criticism that some of the interviews were too long, and children were less invested in the process, due to tiredness or reluctance to be there. Perhaps, more attention to child cues was necessary in those cases, and a willingness to reschedule. There was appropriate use of breaks, and some children were offered the possibility of returning. This then led to the criticism of repeated interviews- and the possibility of contamination in the interim, - a double edged sword.
Interviewers perpetuated the demonization of Mr. Ellis. There was only one example of a negative comment made by an interviewer regarding Mr. Ellis, which was uncalled for. It appeared to be in response to fears a child had of the interviewer talking to him. This should not have been said.
Interviewers did not explore children's "source monitoring" and possible contamination: On the contrary, children were routinely asked if they had just heard about things or actually saw it themselves. They were asked what was said by their parents in their pre investigative discussions with them. This was not a valid criticism.
Interviewers failed to explore inconsistencies across interviews There were many occasions when inconsistencies were explored It was difficult to know at times if children were talking about different occasions and incidents. In the case of the six complainants where convictions were obtained, it is my opinion that this was routinely done.
Interviewers used social pressures to encourage disclosures: There were times when interviewers did pressure children to disclose what they had told their parents, by using repeated questions about whether anything else had happened. This was not appropriate, and sometimes led to a child disclosing what they had told their parents earlier, and sometimes not. In many cases this was done in an appropriate manner. There were a few situations where the interviewers appeared very anxious to obtain the information and used too many repeated probes.
Interviewers attended meetings which increased concern. In hindsight, their presence at the first meeting was not necessary. Whether this contributed to added concern per se, is difficult to ascertain. I dealt with the effect of the meetings in more detail in the report.
Overall the investigative interviews as a whole were reasonably conducted, and in accordance with standard practice.
The specific issue of Contamination:
There is no doubt that there was some contamination of the case by the over-involvement of parents in the investigation, and the sharing of information between the complainant parents. This is always a danger in any case, and in particular in a MVMO case of this proportion. Having said that, in respect of the convictions that were based on the evidence of the six child complainants, that I was asked to comment on, I did not feel that their evidence was seriously affected and unreliable as a result of the contamination. The effect in my view was that there likely would have been more convictions if the issue of contamination by parents, had not been raised so frequently.
The evidence of the six complainant children (S, Q, X, Z, R, and O) was reliable.
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