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Policy position

Enhanced witness and court support

Victims of crime attending court in Victoria, whether as a victim or a witness, need comprehensive witness and court support to ensure their rights are upheld and they can safely participate

Witness support is a critical need for victim-witnesses during the justice process however, there is inadequate access to witness support in Victoria.  

While there are two dedicated witness support services in Victoria – the Child Witness Service (run by the Department of Justice and Community Safety) and the Victim and Witness Assistance Service (run by the Office of Public Prosecutions). Eligibility for these two services is limited and demand for the services under existing eligibility criteria outstrips supply.    

Additionally, the Intermediaries Program, which assists vulnerable witnesses to give their best evidence, only operates in limited geographic locations and for certain vulnerable witnesses.  

There is no single, state-wide, cross-jurisdictional service available to all victims of crime attending court. Current service provision is a complex patchwork of services, meaning victims, including those who need to give evidence, are falling through the gaps.  

Victims have told the Victims of Crime Commissioner that lack of support at court had made for particularly distressing experiences that often resulted in secondary victimisation.    

The Victims of Crime Commissioner recommends that the Victorian Government close the gaps in witness support by: 

  • providing sufficient funding for existing witness support services to meet demand 
  • establishing a witness support scheme for adult victims of crimes against the person in the summary jurisdiction (Magistrates’ Court) 
  • expanding availability of the Intermediaries Program to all victim-witnesses with communication difficulties across Victoria.

The VOCC also recommends that the Victorian Government establish a dedicated and specialised victim liaison service in each court location across Victoria, providing a central contact point for:  

  • information about accessibility in the court space, including for people with disability, children and young people and making arrangements to ensure relevant supports are in place including safe spaces, accessibility aides and interpreters  
  • information about safety in the court space, including options for safe entries, exits, waiting areas and making safety plans prior to a victim attending court  
  • information about the set-up of courtrooms and basic information about courtroom etiquette and procedures  
  • referrals to onsite and offsite support services such as specialist victims’ services or culturally safe programs or services 
  • information about how to find updates about hearing dates and times.

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