Behavioral Sciences & the Law

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Volume 34 Issue 1 (January/February 2016), Pages 1-245

Legal Assessments of Child Victims of Human Trafficking for Sexual Purposes (pages 218-233)

The present study investigated how Swedish district court judges assessed child victims' credibility and the reliability of their testimony in cases of alleged human trafficking for sexual purposes. Court files from 12 different cases, involving 16 alleged child victims (aged 13–17 years old), all of them girls, were qualitatively analyzed with particular attention paid to how the judges described credibility and reliability. Results indicated that, although the judges' assessments to a large extent were based on the Swedish Supreme Court's criteria for credibility and reliability, they were applied somewhat arbitrarily and subjectively. They were also applied as if obvious and grounded on shared experiences, although their meaning was never explored. The way that credibility was assessed may also reinforce gender and victim stereotypes. Moreover, there seems to exist a confusion surrounding the credibility and reliability concepts, as they were sometimes used interchangeably despite the intention that they are two different assessments. Overall, an apparent need exists to increase judges' awareness that their subjective impressions should decrease when legitimizing judicial decisions. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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