Victims of Crime in the Courtroom: A Guide for Judicial OfficersThis guide details considerations for judicial officers and court staff to limit re-traumatisation of victims and witnesses, and enhance opportunities for post-traumatic growth, without compromising the integrity of the criminal justice system. It covers the important role that judicial officers, police, prosecution, court staff and defence counsel can play in influencing a victim’s experience of the justice system.
Understanding the impact of trauma and counter-intuitive behaviour will help you identify and manage these issues in your court or hearing room.
Find out more about the dynamics of family violence and courtcraft techniques on our Family violence page.
Vulnerable victims and witnesses, particularly children and people with a disability, face complex issues in court proceedings.
The Intermediary Program, which commenced in 2018, introduced intermediaries and ground rules hearings in matters involving vulnerable victims. The scheme is set out in pt 8.2A of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009.
The Multi-jurisdictional court guide for the intermediary pilot program provides practical information on working with intermediaries and conducting a ground rules hearing, including directions.
Case Note: Ward (a Pseudonym) v The Queen (2017) 54 VR 68This case note summarises key parts of the decision in Ward v The Queen, which contains a thorough discussion of the principles that apply to cross-examining children, and provides guidance for practitioners and judicial officers on the appropriate limits on such cross-examination.
Part 8.2A of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 governs the use of ground rules hearings and intermediaries.
For an outline of overarching principles for questioning witnesses, as well as discussion of issues such as developmental milestones, and sample scripts to use, refer to Child Witnesses: Testing Competency and Questioning – A Practical Guide.
Magistrates’ Court of Victoria
The following resources provide information on understanding the communication needs of vulnerable victims and witnesses.
The following fact sheets explain common issues and strategies to communicate with vulnerable witnesses. They were prepared by the Intermediaries Pilot Program, Department of Justice and Community Safety:
- Communicating with people with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)
- Communicating with people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Communicating with people with intellectual disability (ID)
- Communicating with people who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)
- Communicating with people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
- Communicating with people with an Anxiety Disorder
- Communicating with people with a Psychotic Disorder
- Communicating with people with Trauma Related Disorders
- Communicating with people with Personality Disorders
Further fact sheets were developed by the Victorian Child Witness Service, which can help you to communicate with child witnesses and obtain quality evidence from children of all ages and abilities:
The following links provide further reading which may be relevant to judicial officers looking for information about managing victims and witnesses:
- Family violence page
- Victims of Crime Commissioner
- Bench Book for Children Giving Evidence in Australian Courts (Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, Updated March 2020).
- The Advocate’s Gateway – provides access to ‘practical, evidence-based guidance on vulnerable witnesses and defendants’.
- The Inns of Court College of Advocacy provides resources to help you prepare to question vulnerable witnesses in court
- Modern slavery: Guidance for Australian courts