26 September 2023

DCJ to have more ‘courts for kids’

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The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) is to expand its program to protect vulnerable children from the trauma of court processes across the State.

Announced by Premier Dominic Perrottet following a successful trial, the Child Sexual Offences Evidence Program (CSOEP) is to be expanded into every District Court and Police District over the next four years to reduce the trauma of court processes for children who are victims of sexual abuse.

“Child sexual abuse is one of the most heinous crimes and those children who have already endured the unimaginable should not have to suffer further at the hands of a justice system designed for adults,” Mr Perrottet said.

“Under this program, young people are able to pre-record their evidence and are provided with intermediaries to assist them during police interviews and hearings, as well as supports to spare them the trauma of facing their alleged attacker in court.”

Attorney General Mark Speakman said the program’s expansion would further strengthen the State’s criminal justice response to child sexual abuse.

“Re-traumatising a complainant does not advance justice,” Mr Speakman said.

He said the CSOEP commenced in 2016 as a pilot in the Sydney (Downing Centre) District Court and Newcastle District Court, and was made permanent at these locations in 2018.

“This followed an independent assessment by the University of NSW that found that the CSEOP received very strong support from participants, reduced stress for children and resulted in a better quality of evidence from child witnesses,” the Attorney General said.

“It also followed the release of the landmark final report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2017, which made seven recommendations about the importance of pre-recording witness evidence and using intermediaries in child sexual offence prosecutions,” he said.

“The CSOEP is consistent with those recommendations.”

Mr Speakman said the expanded program would be rolled out across NSW from 1 July.

If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse or online exploitation there are support services available, visit www.accce.gov.au/support to learn more.

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