Taking the stand: defendant statements in court cases of alleged sexual abuse against infants, toddlers and preschoolers

Investigating and adjudicating allegations of child sexual abuse are challenging tasks. In the present study, we examined defendant statements concerning charges of sexual abuse against young children in Swedish district court cases (87 defendants, 140 child complainants, tried between January 2010...

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Published in:Psychology, crime & law
Main Author: Magnusson, Mikaela (Author)
Contributors: Granhag, Pär Anders (Author); Ernberg, Emelie; Landström, Sara
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Published: 2018
In:Psychology, crime & law
Year: 2018, Volume: 24, Issue: 7, Pages: 744-759
Online Access: Volltext (Resolving-System)
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Summary:Investigating and adjudicating allegations of child sexual abuse are challenging tasks. In the present study, we examined defendant statements concerning charges of sexual abuse against young children in Swedish district court cases (87 defendants, 140 child complainants, tried between January 2010 to December 2015). A main objective was to test predictive factors for admissions of guilt using inferential statistical analyses. Furthermore, using qualitative thematical analysis, we sought to identify common patterns in the defendants’ explanations to the allegation. Approximately one-third of the defendants (31%) pleaded guilty during trial. Admissions of guilt were more likely if the defendant was young, if the child was young at the onset of abuse, if the child and perpetrator had an extrafamilial relationship, and if the defendant possessed child pornography. A conflict with the person who made the report (e.g. a custody dispute), a testimony from the child, a direct eyewitness, or an informal disclosure recipient were significantly more common in cases of denials. In the qualitative analysis, a range of alternative explanations behind the abuse allegations were identified. Legal professionals and investigators may benefit from considering these alternative hypotheses during their investigative and judicial work.
ISSN:1477-2744
DOI:10.1080/1068316X.2018.1424845