Requirements for evidence by a forensic social worker as set by the Supreme Court of Appeal

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    In South Africa, complainants of child sexual abuse are often referred to forensic social workers from whom it is expected to conduct interviews and compile reports in an attempt to corroborate or refute the allegations made by the child complainant regarding sexual abuse. In some instances the forensic social worker is called to testify in court as an expert witness. Great uncertainty exists in practice concerning the interviewing methods to be utilized, what the requirements of the court are in this regard and whether the testimony of forensic social workers can be used to corroborate the allegations of the child complainant. Until recently case law was silent on these specific matters. It is the authors submission that a breakthrough has been made in a recent Supreme Court of Appeal case, De Sousa v The State 2014 (769/13) ZASCA 142, during which the expert testimony of a forensic social worker was acknowledged by the Supreme Court of Appeal. An analysis of this case is presented and the requirements met by her are pointed out. These can serve as guidelines for expert testimony given by forensic social workers, which could be accepted in court. Some recommendations for research and practice are proposed.