Empirical Legal Research on Memory and Child Sexual Abuse: The Case of Cardinal Pell

Event Type: Public Lecture

Event Theme: Evidence-based Practice

Speaker: Prof. Jane Goodman-Delahunty (Research Professor, School of Psychology, Charles Sturt University)

Date: 20 Nov 2019 (Wednesday)

Time: 4:00pm - 6:00pm

Venue: RLB502, Research Complex, HKSYU

Language: English



1) Refreshment will be provided. 
2) Free Admission.
3) Registration is not compulsory but recommended for seat-reservation and news update.


Globally, the prevalence of child sexual abuse is high, yet conviction rates remain disproportionately low.  Many justice professionals who work on cases of child sexual abuse and lay jurors who render a verdict in these cases hold misconceptions about the nature of reliable accounts of childhood sexual abuse. As a consequence, juries may acquit or cases may be reversed on appeal.  Using the pending appeal by Cardinal Pell, the highest ranking Catholic official convicted of child sexual abuse as an example, this paper reviews common misconceptions about memory and provides empirical answers to the legal issues, drawn from contemporary psychological scientific research.  Evidence-based practice offers guidance on what the victims can reasonably be expected to remember, as well as circumstances in which they optimally remember abusive experiences and provide reliable evidence in legal proceedings. A firm portrayal is provided of key features of human memory, how and what victims remember, and how factors such as trauma, emotion, and delay affect their reports.  Advice is provided on methods to assist victims, to elicit reliable memory reports and to evaluate their evidence in legal proceedings.  The paper illustrates how evidence-based practice can be implemented to evaluate evidence and promote justice. 


About the Presenter

Jane Goodman-Delahunty, BA, TTHD, JD, PhD, is a Research Professor at Charles Sturt University.  Her empirical legal studies foster evidence-based decisions to promote social, procedural and distributive justice within organisations and the community.  Trained in law and cognitive experimental psychology, she has represented sexual assault victims and child sex offenders in legal cases. She has conducted original research on child sexual abuse, interviewing techniques to elicit reliable and accurate information from witnesses, and on jury responses to evidence in historical and non-historical cases.  She is the author of over 200 books and scholarly articles and has been appointed an expert witness on human memory in civil and criminal cases in the USA and Australia.  Her career exemplifies evidence-based transdisciplinary applied practice.  She is a member of the bar, a registered psychologist, an accredited mediator and an elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association.  Formerly, she was a Commissioner of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission in Australia, and an Administrative Judge of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Since 2007, she has served as a General Member of the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Contact Information

Should you have any enquiries, Please feel free to contact: cebp@hksyu.edu