New laws that allow police ‘bodycam’ video to be admitted to court as the evidence of domestic violence victims will come into effect tomorrow, reducing the stress of court for victims and potentially leading to more convictions.
Under changes introduced through the Statutes Amendment (Domestic Violence) Act, ‘prescribed recordings’ obtained by police attending domestic violence incidents, such as interviews with victims, will be able to be presented as their evidence in court.
This may result in victims not needing to give further evidence in court, although they will still need to be available for cross-examinations where required.
The changes are the latest reforms introduced by the State Government to toughen domestic violence penalties and to put a stop to the cycle of domestic and family violence.
“For many victims of domestic violence, the process of attending court and facing their accused attacker is a confronting and terrifying experience,” Attorney-General Chapman said.
“These are people who have experienced significant trauma and for some, the prospect of facing the person responsible and re-living what happened is enough to bring them to withdraw their evidence, resulting in the prosecution being dropped.”
Attorney-General Chapman said the changes also provide police with the option of prosecuting offenders in cases where victims later withdraw or change their evidence.
“This would potentially be in instances where there is serious offending, and where it is the best interests of the community to pursue a conviction,” Ms Chapman said.
Commissioner for Victims’ Rights Bronwyn Killmier welcomed the changes as an important step for victims of domestic violence.
“While prosecuting a perpetrator of domestic violence will never be an easy experience for victims or their families, removing any unnecessary requirement to provide evidence in court will lift an avoidable burden for them and be a welcome change,” she said.
To be admissible in court, the video evidence obtained by police attending an incident must have been taken with the informed consent of the victim and meet other required criteria. Interviews can be taken at the scene or as “soon as practical” following an incident.