The Child Sexual Offence Evidence Pilot (the pilot) introduces two initiatives to assist child victims of sexual offences engage with the criminal justice system. These initiatives are:
A component of the pilot is expansion of the use of pre-recorded evidence. Previously, only the evidence-in-chief (the initial interview conducted by the police within the Joint Investigation Response Team – JIRT) was pre-recorded and the child victim was then required to attend court to provide further evidence (cross-examination) at the trial. The court now allows for cross-examination and any re-examination of child complainants and child prosecution witnesses to be pre-recorded as well.
This separate pre-recording takes place before a judge and lawyers, not a jury, and the child victim or witness can give their evidence from outside the courtroom, from a remote witness room, so they do not have to encounter the accused person.
These pre-recordings are then played back to a jury at the trial, rather than the child having to attend court.
The pilot also introduces Children's Champions (Witness Intermediaries) to the justice process. Children's Champions are accredited professionals from four primary disciplines; Speech Pathology, Social Work, Psychology and Occupational Therapy.
The Children's Champions' role is to assess child victims and witness' communication needs and inform police and the court of the best ways to communicate with the child giving evidence.
The Children's Champion conducts a thorough assessment of the child's communication needs at two stages in the process – prior to the police interview and again prior to the pre-recording of evidence at court. The Children's Champion also attends court during the pre-recorded hearing. It is important to note that the Children's Champion is not a support person, rather an independent and impartial participant in the process.
Parents, guardians and carers will be notified of the opportunity to involve a Witness Intermediary during the police interviewing stage if it is assessed that the child victim or witness may have some communication difficulties. If a parent/guardian/carer is aware that the child victim may have communication difficulties, it is important to notify the police handling the matter at the earliest possible opportunity.
The overall aim of the pilot is to reduce the stress and trauma experienced by children and vulnerable young persons who are victims and witnesses in sexual offence matters.
The pilot commenced on 31 March 2016 in two locations – Newcastle District Court and the Sydney District Court (Downing Centre) – and is scheduled to continue for a period of 3 years.
Children's Champion (Witness Intermediaries) Procedural Guidance Manual 2016 (PDF, 484KB)38pp
This procedural guidance manual is a reference document for children’s champions. The role of the children’s champion (who may also be called a witness intermediary) was established by the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Child Sexual Offence Evidence Pilot) Act 2015.
Child Sexual Offence Evidence Pilot -Information for families (PDF, 74KB)2pp
Child Sexual Offence Evidence Pilot -ODPP and Witness Assistance Service (PDF, 81KB)2pp
Legislation (webpage)The Advocate's Gateway (webpage) Media Release (PDF, 241Kb)
For further information relating to the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Pilot, please contact Victims Services, NSW Department of Justice:
P 02 8688 2540E firstname.lastname@example.orgA Locked bag 5118, Parramatta NSW 2124