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Lecture 1

PSYC 376 Lecture 1: Unit 1

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Department
Psychology
Course
PSYC 376
Professor
Trishia Coburn
Semester
Spring

Description
PSYC376 Experimental Psychology and Law Unit 1: History of Children and the Law Cotter and Beaupr (2014) summarized relevant national data from 2012. There were about 660,000 reports to police of crimes against children (persons under the age of 18) representing about 18 of all reported crimes. About 21 of the reports (14,000) involved sexual offences. Sexual offences against children represent about 55 of all reports of sexual offences. For females, the incidence of reported sexual offences increased to a peak at around 14 to 15 years old. For male complainants, there does not appear to be a clear change with age although there is some evidence of a decline after age 15 years. The vast majority (88) of reported sexual offences against children are committed by a person known to the child During the final decade of the 1600s, 19 defendants in Salem Massachusetts were convicted of witchcraft and put to death. A dozen or so others admitted their participation in witchcraft and begged for mercy. The primary witnesses against many of the defendants were a group of young girls between the ages of 5 and 16 years known as the circle girls. They testified that the witches had flown on broomsticks, instructed insects to deposit pins in their stomachs, and appeared as talking animals, among other things. As we will see throughout this course, the children did not independently and spontaneously generate these heinous allegations; they were caught up in circumstances that made it possible for such outrageous allegations to be heard and believed. Those circumstances included: The Salem Witch Trials 17th century Salem believed strongly in the presence and power of witches. There was a strong belief in the innocence of children, due, in part, to the belief that children had not yet been tainted by the evils of humanity and so were able to recognize evil when in its presence. The circle girls were subjected to potent and persistent suggestive questioning by adults. The Salem witch trials were the first recorded cases in American jurisprudence of children as witnesses. Ceci and Bruck (1995) argued that these cases had a profound and longlasting effect on attitudes towards children as witnesses in criminal court. In fact, until the early to mid 1980salmost 300 years laterchildren were still functionally barred from testifying in criminal court. I say functionally because there were no particular laws that specifically barred children from testifying; however, as we will see shortly, there were legal rules and doctrines that had the effect of making it impossible to prosecute to conviction a case in Canada if the primary or only evidence was the testimony of a child Canadian Law Before the Early 1980s
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