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Giving evidence      

Providing evidence in the courtroom can be particularly difficult for victims of sexual assault. Here are some considerations and commonly asked questions.

    In this section, and during the court process, the victim of sexual assault is referred to you the 'witness'. The evidence they provide in response to the prosecutor's questions is referred to as 'evidence-in-chief'.

    The Justice Journey section of this​ website provides information for victims of crime who have to give evidence in court, such as what is involved in being a witness and what evidence you may need to provide.

    How do I tell my story?    

    Witnesses cannot go into the courtroom before they give evidence. Witnesses wait to be called in a waiting room or can be taken to a special witness room, with their support person away from other people, unless you wish your support person to be with you.

    You will be taken into the CCTV room or courtroom to the witness box. The judge will ask you to promise to tell the truth. You can give this promise in a way which fits your religion, language or culture.

    The role of the prosecutor, the defence and the judge is explained in the glossary.

    In relation to evidence, the:

    • prosecutor will start by asking you questions if adults are being questioned. This will be referred to as evidence-in-chief.
    • defence can object to questions asked by the prosecutor. The defence will also ask you questions, called 'cross-examination'. The defences' job is to defend the accused, and you may find some of the questions upsetting.
    • judge must disallow any questions in cross-examination that are misleading or confusing, annoying, harassing, intimidating, offensive, oppressive, humiliating or repetitive, or questions that are put to the witness in a manner or tone that is belittling, insulting or otherwise inappropriate.

    You may not be asked about your past sexual behaviour, unless it is relevant to the court case and the court has agreed to it being raised.

    Recent changes to the way trials are conducted means that the court can direct that the victim of sexual assault give their evidence in narrative or story form, without interruption.

    Some people worry what will happen if they cry or need to go to the toilet. Ask the judge if you need to go to the toilet, have a break, or a glass of water.

    You can also tell the judge if you don't understand a question and ask for it to be explained.

    Answer the question truthfully and as best you can. Speak clearly and take your time.

    Pre-recorded interview as evidence-in-chief

    If you were under 16 years of age when you were first interviewed by the police 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.

    Using recorded evidence-in-chief and recorded 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.

    Closed court, court support and non-publication orders

    You can ask the prosecutor to make a request to the judge or magistrate that the case, or at least your evidence, be given in a closed court, that is, where members of the public are excluded.

    When you are giving evidence, you do need to tell the court in precise detail about the sexual assault including the explicit and detailed parts of what happened, as you did when you made your statement to the police.

    The prosecutor can also ask that a support person such as family, friends or counsellors remain in the court to give support. A decision to close the court and to allow support people to remain with you is decided by the magistrate or judge.

    A judge or magistrate can also prohibit the publication of any details about the case. The law prohibits publication of your name and address, or any other information, which might identify you. This is called a 'non-publication order'.

    Will the accused be at court when I go?

    The accused person will be at court for the hearing or the trial and will be in court to hear all the evidence in the case against them. If they are on bail, they will enter and leave the courthouse through the public entrance.

    If the accused is in gaol waiting for the court case, they will be brought to court on the day and kept in the cells that are in the court complex. When they come into the court, they are brought into the court through a separate entrance with two officers from the Department of Corrective Services.

    Will I have to see the accused?

    If the accused is on bail, you may see the accused and their friends or family around the court complex. The accused will be in the court room either sitting in the dock or near the defence lawyer.

    You don't have to look at the accused while in court.

    In a sexual assault case, you may be able to use a screen in the courtroom. If you are giving your evidence using closed circuit television you should not see the accused while you are giving evidence. Remember courtroom technology assistance and support services are available to you for giving evidence.

    Courtroom technology

    The courtroom has specific technology and support services to assist victims of sexual assault who are required to give evidence in court.