Giving evidence can be especially traumatic for victims of sexual assault and other vulnerable witnesses.
Special arrangements are available for these witnesses and can reduce the stress and trauma they may experience when they give evidence.
Sexual assault cases
There are special protections and arrangements available for victims of sexual assault offences. If you are a victim of sexual assault and are called upon to give evidence when you matter is prosecuted, speak to the ODPP lawyer handling the case or the Witness Assistance Service. They will be able to explain the kinds of arrangements that can be made for you.
Please be aware that the Judge or Magistrate will ultimately decide if any of these arrangements can be used when you give evidence.
If you are a victim of a sexual assault, the court room can be closed to members of the public who are not directly involved in the case whilst you are giving evidence and being cross examined.
If you are a victim of a sexual assault and you give evidence in the court room, the Judge or Magistrate can allow for a screen to be placed in front of the accused person so that you can’t see them whilst you are in the witness stand.
If you are under 16 years of age or the victim of a sexual assault and have to give evidence at court, your name or any other details that identify you cannot, by law, be published or broadcast in the media.
If you are a vulnerable person or a victim of sexual assault you are allowed to have at least one support person with you when you give your evidence.
The Judge or Magistrate will decide where the support person sits. They may be able to sit near you or sit somewhere that you can see them. You can have a support person if you give evidence in court, or if you are using the CCTV facilities.
You are entitled to have a support person with you in the Court. It is important you discuss your choice of support person with the Witness Assistance Officer, the ODPP lawyer or the police officer in charge of your case.
Using recorded evidence-in-chief and cross examination in re-trials
If you are a victim of sexual assault and there is an aborted trial, a hung jury or a re-trial, you may not have to give evidence again. The best copy of your evidence-in-chief and cross-examination can be used in any following trials.
The best copy of your evidence may be the transcript, an audio recording, or a video recording.
Vulnerable witnesses are treated differently by our legal system in recognition of their special needs. Vulnerable witnesses include children and people with a cognitive impairment.
If you were under 16 years of age when you were first interviewed by the police, or you are a person who has an cognitive impairment, and your interview was recorded on audio or video tape, your evidence-in-chief will usually be your taped interview. You will still be cross-examined by the Defence lawyer.
Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)
If you are a vulnerable person or a victim of a sexual assault you are able to use the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) facilities at the courthouse or at another location.
CCTV links you with the courtroom using cameras and TV screens. This means you don’t have to go into the courtroom to give you evidence.
You will be able to see, hear and speak to the Judge or Magistrate and the Prosecutor and Defence lawyer. Everyone in the courtroom will be able to see and hear you.
Only the Judge or Magistrate, Prosecutor and Defence lawyer can talk to you.
If you are using CCTV, you will be in a room that is separated from the courtroom. There will be a court officer with you and your support person if you have one.
You will see the Magistrate or Judge, the prosecutor and the defence lawyer.
The Magistrate or Judge might ask you if you can see and hear them. Sometimes there can be problems with the equipment. If you can’t see the Magistrate’s or Judge’s face on the screen, just say so. If you can’t hear what is being said clearly, let the Judge know.
You should not see the accused person. If you can see the accused, it is a mistake and you or your support person, if you have one, should let the court officer know. The accused will be moved to where you can’t see him or her.
The WAS officers and prosecutors are very experienced in handling matters like yours. You should speak with them directly if you have any concerns about giving evidence or the arrangements in court on the day you are to give evidence.