The Statutes Amendment (Vulnerable Witnesses) Act 2015 was introduced to Parliament by the Attorney-General, John Rau MP on 6 May 2015. The Act passed Parliament and commenced at the beginning of July 2016.
The legislative reforms contained in the Act are all actions in the Disability Justice Plan under 'Vision 2 – Supporting vulnerable victim and witnesses in the giving of evidence'. The legislative reforms are supported by key programs.
The Statutes Amendment (Vulnerable Witnesses) Act 2015, incorporates major changes to the Evidence Act 1929. The purpose of the reforms is to:
- give people, whether victims, witnesses or defendants, with complex communication needs a general entitlement to have a communication assistant present for any contact with the criminal justice system
- minimise the number of times vulnerable witnesses have to recount their experiences by providing alternative measures for their evidence to be presented to the court, including the use of pre-recorded evidence and investigative interviews at trial
- tackle the misconception that disability denotes ‘unreliability’
- enhance the supports available for vulnerable victims, witnesses and defendants, both in and out of court
- allow the evidence of vulnerable witnesses to be taken in informal surroundings
- extend the priority listing of sexual assault trials where the complainant is a child to those where the complainant has a disability that adversely affects their capacity to give evidence.
It also contains changes to s 50B District Court Act 1991, s 126A Supreme Court Act 1935 and s 48B Magistrates Court Act 1991.
The Act is available below.
- Statutes Amendment (Vulnerable Witnesses) Act 2015
- Second Reading speech of the Statutes Amendment (Vulnerable Witnesses) Bill 2015 introduced to the House of Assembly on 6 May 2015.