A guide to interviewing children

Clare Wilson and Martine Powell.



ISBN 415 215250 4

Hearing the Voice of the Child: The Representation of
Children’s Interests in Public Law Proceedings

Maria Ruegger

Russell House Publishing


ISBN 1 89892 4 82 1

How to interview children and how to represent them in court,
are both crucial topics. Unfortunately, the books differ markedly
in their quality and usefulness in dealing with these subjects.

The focus of Clare Wilson and Martine Powell’s book is on how to
interview a child rather than detailing the results of research.
The authors, both clinical psychologists before becoming academics
in Australia, have trained police officers, social workers and
legal professionals in interviewing techniques in the UK as well as
in Australia. They have produced a first-class practical and
informative work which is essential reading.

While the book concentrates on how to interview a child who may
have been sexually abused, this is only one specific example of how
the interviewing techniques they describe can be used. Each chapter
represents a step in the interviewing process. The authors deal
with understanding a child’s mind, the planning of an interview,
essential elements, tailoring the interview to the child’s needs
and evaluating the process and outcome.

Interviewing children is notoriously difficult. This book,
written in a lucid and informative style, manages in under 150
pages to cover the subject comprehensively and knowledgeably.
Indeed, a deep understanding of children illuminates every page.
The text can be read from beginning to end or used as a valuable
reference guide.

Hearing the Voice of the Child, edited by Maria Ruegger, falls
into a different category. The book purports to deal with the
representation of children’s interests in public law proceedings.
Its purpose is said to be to cover some of the issues that have
arisen in representing children. What is provided is a ragbag of
chapters, some of which have nothing to do with the book’s declared
subject matter.

Penelope Wood, for instance, devotes 20 pages to human rights
and family law without ever focusing on children’s representation.
She is not alone; there are discourses on experts, the needs of
young black children in transracial foster placements, changes in
the work of officers of the Children and Family Court Advisory and
Support Service (Cafcass), and the child’s experience of being
cared for by the state.

Where relevant, there is some useful information and comment.
However, if you have to choose, buy Wilson and Powell’s excellent

Allan Levy is a barrister and author and editor of books
on child law and child abuse.

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