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Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program

Responsible government

  • 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, 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 Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program is delivered at Newcastle and Sydney District Courts and Central Metropolitan, South West Metropolitan and Hunter Child Abuse Unit sites.

Between 1 July 2020 and 28 February 2021, 60 court matters had entered the program. In total 77 pre-recorded hearings had been completed, 63 complainants and 35 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 423 occasions.

What is next?

The Program will continue to operate, with monitoring of the number of:

  • service requests for witness intermediaries made by Police and Courts;
  • referred witnesses and complainants that receive the assistance of a Witness Intermediary; and,
  • referred children that benefit from a pre-recorded hearing.

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.

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