Before an adult charged with an indictable sexual offence can be sent for trial, a committal hearing may be held. Committal hearings or proceedings are a preliminary examination of the evidence by a magistrate or other judicial officer. Where the judicial officer finds there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction, the accused is committed to stand trial in a higher court. In many cases a committal hearing will be determined on the basis of documentary evidence alone, which is referred to as a ‘paper’ or ‘hand-up’ committal.
The result of this is that victims may be required to give evidence twice and be subject to cross-examination at both committal and trial. The Commissions are of the view that there is little or no benefit in requiring that complainants give evidence twice. There should be a complete prohibition in all states and territories on complainants in sexual offence proceedings being required to attend committal hearings in person.
Proposal 17–3 State and territory legislation should prohibit any complainant in sexual assault proceedings from being required to attend to give evidence at committal proceedings. Alternatively, child complainants should not be required to attend committal proceedings and, for adult complainants, the court should be satisfied that there are special reasons for the complainant to attend.