Time Out for Longman: Myths, Science and the Common Law
37 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2011 Last revised: 7 Feb 2012
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.
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