In 1988, at the suggestion of the then Australian Capital Territory Chief Magistrate, Mr Ron Cahill, the federal Attorney-General agreed that the Australian Law Reform Commission and the ACT Magistrates Court should examine the use of closed circuit television for children who give evidence in court.
The evaluation study aimed to assess:
- whether closed circuit TV reduces the stress of testifying for child witnesses both for its own sake and in order to improve the quality of their evidence or the ascertainment of facts; and
- whether closed circuit TV was acceptable to the participants in the litigation process.
The evaluation compared children in the ACT who used closed circuit TV to children in the ACT and New South Wales who did not use closed circuit TV.
- There should be a legislative presumption that closed circuit TV will be used for children giving evidence.
- Where it would be unfair to a party to the case or in other limited circumstances the court may order that closed circuit TV not be used.
The Evidence (Closed Circuit Television) (Amendment) Act 1994 (ACT), which commenced in May 1994, implemented the recommendations made by the Commission. The Evidence (Closed Circuit Television) (Amendment) Act 1994 was repealed in 2000, but the relevant provisions were incorporated into the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1991 (ACT).
A number of other States and Territories have introduced the use of closed circuit television for children giving evidence in certain circumstances.
The Australian Law Reform Commission and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission considered the issue of children’s evidence again as part of their 1997 report, Seen and heard: priority for children in the legal process (ALRC Report 84).
In 2001, the Queensland Law Reform Commission completed an inquiry reviewing the capacity of the judicial system to properly receive the evidence of children.
The Australian Law Reform Commission considered certain aspects of children’s evidence as a part of the review of the Uniform Evidence Acts, a review that was conducted jointly with the New South Wales Law Reform Commission and Victorian Law Reform Commission.