I was momentarily tempted to headline this piece
Qui odoratus Isacus, de qua n eam But then I remembered that I didn't do Latin at school, so I've no way of checking whether Google translate is right when it claims that this is the Latin for "He who smelt it, dealt it". And I knew the comments would be full of corrections to it. This is a curious little case, involving a flawed ABE interview. Not that unusual, it is more startling to find a judgment which commends the ABE for good practice than castigates it for bad. This one though involves both anatomically correct dolls being used by the intermediary (The 1980s faxed and said "hi") and a dog being brought in. Yes, a dog. A real one. https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/OJ/2019/B36.html Re J and K (Flawed ABE interview) 2019 I don't think His Honour Judge Hayes QC was too enamoured with this process.
- As to the presence of B the dog in the interview room, I have never before seen a dog present during an ABE interview. There was no good reason to have a dog in the room and I find that it was misguided to have the dog present. What took place during the video (summarised below) amply demonstrates why I say this.
- The purpose of the video was to speak to and elicit a free narrative from J. And yet there were frequent times during the video when the dog took centre stage and attention / comments were directed to the dog rather than J. At one point, the dog took up a position on one of the chairs. The chair was there for child J, not the dog.
- On more than one occasion, the dog licked J on the face and on her hand. J was distracted by this. The adults were enamoured by it. I was left asking myself why it was happening at all during an ABE interview of a young child
At one stage, after a vitally important (and pretty leading)question had been asked, the whole interview then forgets itself because of a certain doggy odour
|J||Because he said, “Don’t ever tell anybody and we’ll do it, er, when mummy isn’t here and when mummy is here we’ll cover them up”|
|Officer||Okay. Do you smell a little smell in the room? Do you think B has [done] a little trump?|
|Officer||I’m not sure. I think so.|
|Officer||That’s okay. She’s okay. Can you smell it or it is just me?|
|Intermediary||I can’t smell anything.|
|Intermediary||Can you? Oh no, it’s probably going to reach me in a minute.|
|Intermediary||Sometimes she gets a bit of wind.|
|Officer||That’s okay. That’s what animals do isn’t it?|
|J||And we do.|
|Intermediary||Yes, and we do.|
So it was that what J said at the start of the above exchange about what her father had said to her (clearly a worrying account) was not developed any further. The smell made by the dog distracted the attention of the officer, the intermediary and the child. The conversation turned from what J said to a discussion about the dog breaking wind. It is simply unacceptable that that this happened.
 As I have said, the observations that I have made do not, in the circumstances of this case, have any bearing on my findings of fact. But the errors that were made could – in other circumstances – have had serious evidential consequences. A poorly conducted ABE interview has some parallels with a police officer (or some other person) trampling over a potential crime scene rather than adhering to essential forensic guidelines.
 The video interview of J on 22 November 2016 regrettably strayed from its objective of “achieving best evidence” from the child. It would be helpful for my observations to be fed back to the officer and the intermediary and, subject to considering any representations to the contrary by the parties, I will give permission for them to see this Judgment (or part thereof) for that purpose. My observations are intended to be constructive criticism . I hope that they are read in that spirit and that those involved will reflect on what went wrong and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
Maybe I should have called it Never Work with Children AND animals...