Time Out for Longman: Myths, Science and the Common Law

37 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2011 Last revised: 7 Feb 2012

See all articles by Annie Cossins

Annie Cossins

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: September 6, 2011


Because a sexual assault complainant’s testimony is often uncorroborated, sexual assault trials are replete with common law warnings that are designed to draw attention to the unreliability of the complainant’s evidence, particularly where there has been a delay in complaint. This article examines the validity of such common law safeguards in child sexual assault trials. A detailed review of the psychological literature about the patterns of disclosure of sexually abused children reveals that delay in complaint is a typical feature of child sexual abuse. Accordingly, common law warnings about delay in complaint, such as the Longman warning, do not adequately consider the context in which child sexual abuse, and its disclosure, occur. This article argues that the Longman warning, and other similar warnings, should be abolished. It examines the limitations of the warning and the legislative attempts that have been made to mitigate its impact and makes recommendations for future reform.

Suggested Citation

Cossins, Annie, Time Out for Longman: Myths, Science and the Common Law (September 6, 2011). Melbourne Univeristy Law Review, Vol. 34, No. 1, 2010, UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2011-34, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1943388

Annie Cossins (Contact Author)

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law ( email )

Kensington, New South Wales 2052

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