In sexual assault trials in the ACT, a person’s police statement is used as the ‘evidence in chief’. This means that the written or recorded (and transcribed) statement given to the police is used as the main evidence from the victim and it is used in criminal proceedings as the basis for cross-examination.
There can be a substantial wait – one year or more – between the time of giving the statement and when criminal proceedings take place. There are usually a large number of court proceedings, such as case management hearings which take place in relation to the case which victims are not required to attend.
In the ACT sexual offences are usually heard first in Magistrate’s Court via a committal hearing. Whilst victims can be called upon to attend the committal hearing, generally they take place as ‘paper committals’ in which the police brief of evidence is presented without the need for the victim (primary witness) to attend.
Below we look at Support During Criminal Proceedings, Before the Trial, Defendants Plea and Pre-recorded Hearings.
Support During Criminal Proceedings
It is important to know that any person who has experienced sexual assault can have support before, during and after court proceedings. A counsellor from CRCC can offer support to you if you would like. Call us on 6247 2525 to discuss with us.
Before The Trial
Victims are given a copy of their police statement to read through and re-familiarize themselves with prior to the criminal trial. A copy of the statement is also provided to the defendants lawyer in preparation for criminal proceedings. Victims will also meet with a Prosecutor at the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who is prosecuting the case in courts. The Prosecutor is a specially trained legal representative who acts on behalf of the State to bring the victims evidence to court. This meeting will often take place within two or three weeks leading up to the criminal trial.
During this time, you can also look at the court facilities to familiarize yourself with them, usually a DPP Witness Assistant is available to show you the room, or a room that is similar to the one you will give evidence in.
If the person who sexually assaulted you (called the ‘defendant’ or ‘accused person’) pleads guilty before or after the committal hearing, they can be sentenced to the Magistrate without the case proceeding to the trial. If the defendant does not plead the guilty the case will generally be committed to trial at a later date.
In the ACT special provisions have been put into place for certain vulnerable witnesses, such as children and those with an intellectual disability, whereby their evidence can be given and cross-examination undertaken in a pre-recorded hearing which takes place sooner than the trial. Pre-recording hearings are equivalent to a trial, except that no jury is present and verdict is reached at this time. The evidence from a pre-recorded hearing is re-played at a later date to a jury and a verdict reached.