Some jurisdictions provide ‘alternative’ or ‘special’ arrangements for the giving of evidence by complainants or other witnesses in sexual offence proceedings including: the giving of contemporaneous evidence by closed circuit television (CCTV) or video-link; the use of screening to restrict contact between the witness and the defendant; and the exclusion of persons from the court. All jurisdictions also permit a complainant in sexual offence proceedings to have a support person present with them while they give evidence.
In most jurisdictions, the giving of evidence by way of alternative or special arrangements ‘may’ be ordered by the court. In other cases, the arrangements are something to which, subject to exceptions, the complainant is entitled, or are mandatory (especially in the case of evidence given by children).
Some methods for giving evidence by complainants, such as the use of CCTV, are broadly used. However, not all jurisdictions expressly permit, for example, the use of screens or planned seating arrangements; or require evidence of the complainant in sexual offence proceedings to be given in closed court.
Question 18–13 Are there significant gaps or inconsistencies among Australian jurisdictions in relation to ‘alternative’ or ‘special’ arrangements for the giving of evidence by complainants or other witnesses in sexual offence proceedings?