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Lost in application?

What is the role of psychological research for legal practice?

How can we better understand the systemic nature of the mutual challenges practitioners face?

How, and at what cost, do legal systems address the dilemma of giving children access to justice, while remaining uncertain about their ability to satisfy the legal 'call to truth'?

Could an international comparison / exchange contribute to improving child witness practice in England and Wales and internationally?

Child witnesses and psychological research on trial

This research-practice network presents an opportunity for an international, interdisciplinary exchange between practitioners and researchers working with child witnesses.

The network was launched as part of a conference held in the Hilton Hotel, Kents Hill, Milton Keynes, UK on the 10 June 2009. The conference was organised in collaboration with Barando's tlc and included key note addresses by:

  • Who will be interested?
    Practitioners and researchers in criminal and family law, Crown Prosecution Services, police, children's services, as well as researching psychologists, experts and students;
  • International and interdisciplinary
    The conference offered contributions by psychological and legal professionals from England and Germany (e.g. credibility assessment of child witnesses in Germany); the network aims to extend and diversify the international collaboration (future partnerships include contributors from counties including Poland, Spain, South Africa, Australia, Canada).
  • Reporting knowledge
    The conference presented and discussed some of the latest research on special measures, intermediaries, and on the challenges of applying research to improve child witness practice; the network aims to continue providing up to date research information and comments from practitioners; facilitating a productive and reciprocal link between research and practice.
  • Practice-research exchange
    The conference provided opportunities for discussion, small group work and networking, to exchange experience and expertise, to promote 'critical friendships', and to examine interagency barriers and structural uncertainties that challenge good practice; this network aims to sustain and broaden interagency discussions and critical friendships.
  • Generating knowledge
    The conference formed part of an ongoing research project (J.F. Motzkau, The Open University); proceedings were audio recorded to systematically feed into future research to improve child witness practice (all delegates gave their consent; anonymity guaranteed).

Our website will be restructured to become fully functional as a research-practice network. Please read on about the conference and contact us with links and suggestions of what you would like to see included on our network website.

About the conference

The Lost in Application conference was held on the 10 June 2009 and was organised by The Open University in collaboration with Barando's tlc.

Is there a missing link between research and practice, or is psychological knowledge lost in application?

In the twenty years since the Cleveland crisis, guided by public enquiries and psychological research, child protection and child witness practice in England and Wales have seen vast improvements. However, experience has shown that recommendations and research findings do not translate smoothly into practice. Social service providers, Family and Criminal Justice agencies face multiple challenges putting to work the recommended procedures, and establishing productive multiagency approaches.
The idea for this conference was conceived in the context of ongoing collaboration between Barnardo's and J. Motzkau, who has recently completed a programme of research that compared child witness practice in England and Germany. The research examined the impact of psychological research on practice, and explored the complex problems faced by practitioners implementing this knowledge.
Informed by this research, the conference focuses on the question of application in a bid to enable a broader systemic understanding of the workings and challenges of practice, beyond accusations of 'bad practice' and immediate crisis management. Dealing with child protection, child witnesses and sexual abuse is an onerous task. We wish to take seriously the complexity of this work on an everyday level, the personal commitment of practitioners and researchers to deliver good practice, as well as creating a space to negotiate the shared problems encountered. A closer look at the workings and problems of child witness practice abroad (Germany), is hoped to broaden, facilitate and inspire debate.


  • The conference provides an interdisciplinary and international forum for researchers and practitioners from different agencies to meet and to hear some of the latest research about child witness practice in England and Germany.
  • One of the main aims is to create an informal, safe, interdisciplinary space for practitioners from different agencies and disciplinary backgrounds (courts, police, social services, psychologists) to meet and discuss the shared structural problems and uncertainties of child witness practice against the background of recent research.
  • It offers the opportunity to share experience and expertise across disciplinary, agency and national boundaries in small group discussions and through international comparison (members of the German judiciary will attend).

We hope to promote interdisciplinary 'critical friendships', offer inspiration through international perspectives, and confront the meaning of being a witness for children and young people. The conference is being designed and delivered to foster analytical and child centred interventions that confront systemic tensions between the imperatives of the Family and Criminal Justice Systems.

Conference as research practice synergy

The conference forms part of an ongoing research project and aims to report findings as well as gather feedback and new material from delegates.
It is planned to audio record some of the conference proceedings to allow for a systematic collation and analysis of debates, questions and knowledge generated by delegates on the day. In this way the reporting and reception of past research can systematically contribute to future research and create a closer relationship between research and practice. All recordings will be anonymised. Chatham House rule applies.
Delegates' explicit consent will be confirmed on the day at registration, and delegates are free to withhold their consent. However, in the interest of research for improving child witness practice, delegates are kindly asked to support this project by giving their consent.
The research is supported by an Open University Research Development Grant, 2008, principal investigator: Dr J.F. Motzkau.

Keynote speakers

Keynote addresses presented by English and German researchers, experts and legal professionals.

Johanna Motzkau

PhD, Lecturer in Forensic Psychology, The Open University
Title of keynote: Lost in Application? Child witnesses and psychological research on trial in England and Germany.

HH Judge Maureen Roddy

Geater Manchester

The conference is chaired by Mark Lee, Regional Director, Barnardo's North West

Conference programme

Keynotes and panel discussion (interdisciplinary panel of experts) will be followed by small group work (groups chaired by members of the judiciary, research, child protection, policy), and a forum to discuss results. The day will be punctuated by contributions/reports/experiences of child witnesses.
Conference starts 10:00 and the formal programme closes around 17:00. The final part of the day (17:00-18:00) is open for further discussion and networking for those who can stay longer.

We look forward to welcoming you at this event

Ann Potter (Barnardo's tlc), Johanna Motzkau (The Open University), Mark Lee (Barnardo's)

Please contact us for questions and for registration.

Building a Research-Practice Network

Our aim is to use the website for further knowledge generation and networking to promote interagency practice and meaningful local, national and international collaborations to improve child witness practice.

Read more about research-practice synergies

Contact us

For further information please contact:

'Lost in Application'
Psychology in the Social Sciences
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes MK7 6AA
United Kingdom

Tel +44 (0)1908 654499