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Policy position

Expanding witness protections for victims of crime

More victims of crime should be able to access witness protections

The Criminal Procedure Act in Victoria provides that a court may direct that ‘alternative arrangements’ are made for giving evidence.  

Alternative arrangements include the use of remote witness facilities (giving evidence via closed-circuit television), using screens to remove the accused from the witness’s line of vision, allowing a person to sit with a witness for the purpose of giving emotional support, and specifying who may be in the court when a witness gives evidence. 

Alternative arrangements help to reduce unnecessary trauma, intimidation or distress that a witness may experience as a result of giving evidence. 

However, a court may only make alternative arrangements orders in sexual offence and family violence cases and summary offences involving obscene behaviour or ‘sexual exposure’.  

Sexual offences, family violence cases, and the two summary offences outlined above are not the only offences or circumstances where victim-witnesses need, or would benefit from, alternative arrangements for giving evidence. 

The VOCC advocates for a broader class of victim-witnesses to be able to access alternative arrangements, regardless of offence.  

The purpose of ordering alternative arrangements to be used should be to prevent unnecessary trauma, intimidation or distress to a victim-witness as a result of giving evidence—regardless of crime type.  

The Victorian Government should amend the Criminal Procedure Act to provide for alternative arrangements for any victim-witness who is likely to experience unnecessary trauma, intimidation or distress as a result of giving evidence.

Additionally, all Victorian courts should have sufficient:  

  • remote witness facilities to meet demand  
  • assets and infrastructure to implement special arrangements at the request of victims, including screens in court.

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