27 September 2023

Vulnerable victims get voices in Court

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Vulnerable people appearing in court are to receive better support under a new intermediary scheme announced by Attorney-General, Gordon Ramsay.

Under the scheme, announced as part of the 2019-20 ACT Budget, vulnerable witnesses will be better supported to have their voices heard in court and by police.

Mr Ramsay said the scheme was recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and would help witnesses give clear evidence.

“This scheme features impartial and independent intermediaries who will help vulnerable witnesses provide evidence to police and the courts, and enhance the fairness of the justice system,” Mr Ramsay said.

“Giving evidence can be a particularly daunting experience for children, and this scheme will support young witnesses to better articulate their evidence in court proceedings, as well as their responses under cross-examination.”

He said $5.8 million had been allocated to establish the intermediary scheme in the ACT.

Mr Ramsay said the scheme would be administered by Victims of Crime Commissioner, Heidi Yates (pictured).

Ms Yates said it was known that trauma often affected a victim’s ability to clearly recollect and recount a violent incident.

“Intermediaries can assist by requesting breaks when witnesses become tired or distressed, and asking for questions to be rephrased to help vulnerable witnesses understand,” Ms Yates said.

“Intermediary schemes in other jurisdictions are working well, and the ACT scheme is expected to improve access to justice for vulnerable community members.”

The funding will establish a phased introduction of the scheme into the ACT and will initially include child complainants in sexual offence matters and child witnesses in homicide matters.

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