Book Review: Prosecuting and Defending Offences Against Children–A Practitioner’s Handbook.

Several times each month, we are pleased to republish a recent book review from the Canadian Law Library Review (CLLR). CLLR is the official journal of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL/ACBD), and its reviews cover both practice-oriented and academic publications related to the law.

Prosecuting and Defending Offences against Children: A Practitioner’s Handbook. By Lisa Joyal et al. Toronto: Emond, 2019. 573 p. ISBN 978-1-77255-263-8 (softcover) $129.00; ISBN 978-1-77255-264-5 (eBook) $115.00.

Reviewed by Jenny Thornhill, MSC, MLIS, MSL
Law Librarian
Law Society of Newfoundland & Labrador Law Library
In CLLR 44:3

Prosecuting and Defending Offences against Children: A Practitioner’s Handbook is the tenth volume in the Emond Criminal Law Series. Its focus is on Criminal Code matters where a child is the victim. Intended for both Crown and defence attorneys, the book is broken down into chapters dealing with a particular theme.

The opening chapters cover the process of working with children, from the initial interview through to testifying in court. The next section covers specific issues of working with children in court. Six chapters then outline the existing Criminal Code offences against children and the requirements of both prosecution and defence lawyers in relation to these offences. Later chapters outline the key aspects of the actual trial and sentencing processes.

Each chapter is organized in a similar manner. The authors explore a general topic first, followed by specific concepts, and ending with a summary of the topic. For example, the chapters dealing with offences begin with an outline of the relevant section of the Criminal Code, followed by an exploration into what constitutes the actus reus and mens rea of the offence, and finish by addressing the relevant procedures required to bring the matter to court.

The authors are experienced Crown and defence attorneys and share real-world examples from their own practice throughout the book (although they refer to all children with a pseudonym). For example, one story relates the experience of a team of prosecutors who believed they had properly prepared the interview room for a seven-year-old complainant. They quickly realized their mistake when the child paid more attention to the joys of a spinning chair than their questions. Lesson learned! In this example, the prosecutors learned how critical it is to view the room through the eyes of a child rather than as an adult. For their next attempt, they interviewed the child in a room furnished with a sofa rather than anything resembling a plaything.

The text is accessible, logically organized, and written in plain and easy-to-comprehend language. The authors cover both the commonly known forms of child offences as well as the new and rapidly growing social media related offences, such as cyberbullying, child luring through the internet, and revenge porn. Given the rapid development of these difficult and delicate legal issues and the limited amount of published legal content on sexual offences and child offences, this publication is an excellent addition to the available published materials.

The real-life focus and the comprehensive breakdown of each offense make this book fit into any law library. It is a valuable tool for law students and practitioners either new to criminal law or for those who are experienced but still learning this constantly changing area.

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