Page 3774 - Week 11 - Thursday, 24 November 2022

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The amendment seeks to remove the structural cost to witnesses who choose to give evidence in a courtroom under section 68 (3)(a) by extending the same protections as are afforded to witnesses who testify via AVL. This change will ensure that all vulnerable witnesses in these proceedings now have the right to have their recorded evidence admissible in subsequent related proceedings, limiting the potentially traumatic experience of having to give the evidence again. The measure is intended to ensure that witnesses, particularly vulnerable witnesses, which may include children, in sexual, violent or family violence matters are not unnecessarily re-traumatised in a subsequent proceeding by needing to give evidence again. In this respect, the amendments engage and promote the right to liberty and security of persons and the protection of the family and children.

While the amendment may engage and limit the rights in criminal proceedings, the right to a fair trial and the right to privacy, the amendment has been drafted to include a range of important safeguards to parties to the proceedings. For example:

The new section 69 (2A) provides that, unless the court orders otherwise, evidence given in the courtroom must be recorded only if the witness consents. Consent is vital to ensuring the autonomy and respect afforded to the witness is maintained to the greatest extent possible.

The use of the recording in a related proceeding will not be mandatory but a decision to be made by the relevant party.

The court in the related hearing will have discretion to refuse to admit any part of the recording in evidence.

A party to a proceeding may apply for an order that the witness attend the hearing to give further evidence.

Finally, an accused who objects to the tendering, in a related proceeding, of a witness’s recorded evidence given in the courtroom in the first trial—where that trial occurred before the commencement of the proposed amendments—may make one or more applications relating to the potential impact of the amendments on their trial.

This amendment is worthy of particular mention as it has the potential to significantly improve the experience of vulnerable witnesses in our justice system, an objective this government seeks to promote wherever possible.

Finally, this bill amends the Liquor Act to provide that the member of the Liquor Advisory Board representing the Australian Federal Police is an ex-officio appointment to the board on an ongoing basis. This means that this member does not need to be appointed by the minister each term. The amendment also clarifies that this position will be held by a police officer nominated in writing by the Chief Police Officer. The amendment should provide a small cost saving by reducing the administrative burden currently associated with appointing an AFP member to the board.

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