From 1 June 2015, the NSW Parliament introduced changes to legislation, which will see Domestic Violence hearings conducted differently in New South Wales.Now, victims of domestic violence can provide their evidence to the Court by way of video or audio recording, taken on the day the complaint was made. This means that the recording can be used as all or part of the victim’s ‘evidence in chief’ or perhaps their main evidence in the court proceedings.
One of the main reasons for this change is that victims who consent to the videos being taken will avoid having to relieve their experience multiple times by attending a police station, and reading out a written statement in court. Effectively, victims will no longer have to provide police with written statements and victims will spend significantly less amount of time reliving the trauma of their ordeal to the court.
Other reasons for the change include the following:
- Reduce the time for victims giving statements.
- Assist victims in giving an accurate account of what happened to the court.
- Reduce the difficulty for victims in remembering details of incidents at a later date in Court.
- Provide the Court with an insight into the experience and demeanour of the victim at the time of the alleged incident.
This process already exists in court proceedings involving children, particularly in relation to allegations of sexual abuse. For example, a child may provide a video recorded statement in relation to allegations of sexual abuse. The recording may be played at either the trial or a hearing, so that the child is not placed in an intimidating situation, and feel reluctant to provide information with the alleged accused just metres away. The recording provides the victim with the benefit of giving the evidence to police, away from the alleged accused.
The change will provide the victim (as well as Police) with an advantage, normally only afforded to children in Court proceedings. The Prosecutor will now be able to place the evidence of the victim in Court and have the benefit of a direct account shortly after the alleged violence. This can present difficulties for the defendant or the accused, particularly if the evidence provided by the victim at the time of the alleged incident is incorrect.
The victims may still need to attend court and be cross-examined if the defendant pleads not guilty. However, the change is designed to reduce the stress of the court process, and potentially increase the number of early guilty pleas.
If you have been charged with a domestic violence related offence, contact our Warwick Anderson on 9653 9466 for more information.