KEY TAKE OUTS:
- The Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program Scheme came into effect on 31 March 2016 in the Sydney District Court.
- The scheme operates so that all evidence of a child under the age of 16 years old must be given by way of pre-recorded evidence, before the commencement of the trial proper.
- Witness Intermediaries are appointed to assist the lawyers/parties and the Court to communicate with child complainants.
- The scheme has been extended to 30 June 2022.
On 31 March 2016, the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program Scheme came into effect to assist a child under the age of 16 years old by giving evidence in child sexual assault cases. The Scheme is also known as the Pilot Program.
Exposing a child to their perpetrator in a courtroom and the court process, in general, can be traumatic and overwhelming for a child. This can lead to difficulty in obtaining the necessary evidence required from them. Accordingly, less than 20 percent of child sexual assaults proceed to court.
This scheme came into effect so that a child giving evidence in a case of sexual assault will not give evidence in the presence of the accused. The evidence is pre-recorded prior to the commencement of the Trial proper and played in Court at the trial proper. The child witness is in a remote room and the Lawyers and the Court speak to the child witness utilizing an Audio Visual Link System.
A witness intermediary is appointed by the Court to assist the lawyers/parties and the Court to communicate with child complainants and witnesses. The witness intermediary sits in the witness room with the child. Their role primarily is to explain questions to the child complainants and witnesses and relay answers to the lawyers/parties and the Court. Witness Intermediaries also provide assistance to the parties and to the Court about how questions should be asked to the witness to obtain the most reliable evidence. They ensure that the child understands the question being asked and is able to provide a response to the question.
Inside the witness room are toys to assist in easing anxiety and visual communication stimuli to facilitate a comfortable environment for the child.
Some witness intermediaries are speech pathologists, occupational therapists, teachers, and social workers.
The pre-recorded videos of the child witnesses become their evidence at the trial so that they are not required to attend the Trial properly.
There are many benefits of having this program in place.
- It allows children to be a part of the proceedings and to have a voice but in a non-confrontational way.
- Children with disabilities and very young children have been able to give evidence.
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ABOUT LUISA GAETANI:
Luisa is a Senior Associate at Coutts Lawyers & Conveyancer and head of our Family and Criminal Law divisions. Luisa has practiced solely in the areas of criminal and family law. It is her sensitive yet pragmatic approach that has allowed her to develop a strong rapport and build trusting relationships with her clients. Should a client’s matter proceed to court, Luisa has the skillset and experience to assist her clients through this process and where required, will draw upon her network of barristers to further benefit her client’s outcomes.
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This blog is merely general and non-specific information on the subject matter and is not and should not be considered or relied on as legal advice. Coutts is not responsible for any cost, expense, loss or liability whatsoever in relation to this blog, including all or any reliance on this blog or use or application of this blog by you.