Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 12 Hansard (27 October) . .
The statement that is presented as evidence-in-chief is to be an audiovisual recording. However, if the person did not want to record an audiovisual statement or there are other special circumstances—for example, the audiovisual equipment is broken—then the statement can take the form of audio only.
I am aware that this has caused some concern in the legal community and I have had a representation from the Law Society that audio-only statements should not be admissible. I am comfortable, though, that an audio statement is still better than no statement or requiring a victim who is obviously a vulnerable person to appear when they do not wish to do so. The bill also specifies that the statement must be audiovisual, except in the particular circumstances I have already mentioned. The bill also includes an amendment which allows the complainant to give evidence, including pre-recorded evidence-in-chief, in closed court if the complainant wants to do so and it is in the interests of justice.
The Attorney-General's officials have also assured me that ACT police will receive training on how to conduct these interviews in a way that ensures evidence is admissible. This is an issue of which the police are very aware and, from the information I have received, it sounds like their training and approach to these interviews is very thorough.
The third major change is that the bill creates a new class of interim domestic violence order. This will allow a court to extend interim DVOs when there are current criminal charges unresolved before the court. In these instances the orders will remain interim until after the related criminal charges are heard and a decision is made on the final orders. The change protects applicants for DVOs by allowing them to obtain protection without the need to endure a lengthy hearing. They can still consent to final orders or withdraw the order. The change also assists respondents to DVOs who are also subject to criminal proceedings. It ensures they do not have to make admissions or disclose any information during the hearing for a DVO before they have their trial for the related proceedings. When I spoke to the Law Society about this particular amendment they said that the change is a vast improvement for everybody.
I note that the Attorney-General is tabling a revised explanatory statement which clarifies several matters raised by the scrutiny of bills committee. The attorney's response to the committee also provides cogent information in response to several other matters raised by the committee. I am satisfied that overall the bill appropriately balances human rights with the need to improve the legal system's ability to respond to domestic and family violence, and I am pleased to support the bill today.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Capital Metro) (4.54), in reply: I table a revised explanatory statement for this bill. I thank members for their support of this bill today. This is an important piece of law reform focused on strengthening the justice system responses to the challenges our community faces in the area of domestic and family violence. Members have spoken at some length about the provisions in the bill, and I have spoken as well in my introductory comments to the bill.
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