New means of delivering evidence

SEXUAL assault victims and children will be spared the ordeal of facing their accused attackers in court after all NSW District Courts were fitted with video technology this week.

Completion of the $12.3 million project means court access to CCTV technology and remote witness facilities will allow vulnerable witnesses to testify from a private site within the court complex.

Lismore District Court has had the facility for some time but will now be able to extend it to allow a witness to give testimony in a case being heard as far away as Perth.

Paul Fredericks, acting inspector at Ballina, said the police were fully supportive of this means of delivering evidence for victims and witnesses who felt intimidated.

The technology was useful in other respects, Acting Inspector Fredericks said.

“We are starting to use video links more and more, especially for juveniles who are in the Acmena centre in South Grafton making bail applications, and for other minor technical, administrative matters, which may be being heard in Sydney.

“Not having to take the person to court saves us, and correctional services, a lot of effort, time and money.”

Sophie Anderson, a Lismore solicitor specialising in criminal law, said the technology had its pros and cons.

It was a step forward in that it protected young children from a very frightening experience of being in court with someone who was their alleged abuser, she said. But it was a disadvantage for a defence team in that videos made proceedings ‘much more disjointed for a jury’.

“The communication is not always clear, and not having a witness in court can make it very difficult for the jury to be able to read their body language, and to make an informed judgment about their credibility.”

The witness television rooms are connected to 156 courtrooms, including all District Court rooms, where sexual assault matters are heard.

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