Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program
- New South Wales
Fourth Action Plan actions
- Respond to sexual violence and sexual harassment
- 14 Deliver client-centred, trauma-informed, specialised and consistent support to victims and survivors of sexual violence.
What are we doing?
Victims Services delivers the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program (CSOEP), providing two initiatives to assist child victims of sexual offences to engage with the criminal justice system.
The first initiative 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 Child Protection Response Program – JCPRP) 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 second initiative introduces witness intermediaries to the justice process. Witness intermediaries are accredited professionals from five primary disciplines: Speech Pathology, Social Work, Psychology, Teaching and Occupational Therapy. The role of the witness intermediary 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.
What have we achieved so far?
The CSOEP operates at Newcastle District Court and Sydney Downing Centre District Courts. It also operates at Central Metropolitan, South West Metropolitan and Hunter Child Abuse Units – Joint Child Protection Response Program sites.
Between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2021, 95 court matters had entered the program. In total 115 pre-recorded hearings had been completed, 91 complainants and 56 witnesses had either taken part in a pre-recorded hearing or were scheduled to do so. Additionally, the NSW Police Force requested witness intermediaries to assist at the police interview stage on 603 occasions.
There have been some low level impacts to the CSOEP due to COVID-19, including fewer police and court referrals during periods of lockdown and court matters being vacated. There has also been an increased use of Audio Visual Link to facilitate communication assessments and maintain social distancing protocols.
What is next?
Victims Services will continue to monitor the operation of the Program. For further information please visit:
What difference will we make?
The overall aim of the Program is to reduce the trauma experienced by children and vulnerable young people who are victims and witnesses in sexual offence matters. The Program also aims to improve the criminal justice process for children and young people by ensuring their communication needs are considered and addressed when participating in police interviews and Court processes. This approach encourages collection of better evidence in child sexual offence matters.