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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 7 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 1787 ..


MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (10.52): Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to present the Evidence (Closed-Circuit Television) (Amendment) Bill 1996.

Leave granted.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I present the Evidence (Closed-Circuit Television) (Amendment) Bill 1996 and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

The effect of this Bill will be to extend for a period of two years the capacity for complainants in sexual assault cases to give evidence in court by closed-circuit television. The original provision that this Bill seeks to extend operated for a period of 18 months to enable the Community Law Reform Committee, as part of its sexual assault reference, to evaluate the legislation and to focus on concerns that have been expressed, although not supported by any documentary evidence, that the victim appears remote to jury members when using closed-circuit television, thereby reducing the impact of the evidence. Others have made the reverse comment; that is, that closed-circuit television allows the jury a close-up view of the witness's face and therefore assists the jury in their assessment of the witness.

Until very recently there had not been any cases before the Supreme Court where closed-circuit television had been used by complainants in sexual assault cases. As a consequence, the evaluation anticipated with the enactment of the original provision has not yet been undertaken. I understand that in the near future closed-circuit television will be used by complainants in sexual assault matters in the Supreme Court. Indeed, members may recall that one such case occurred only last week. This Bill will enable that evaluation to occur by extending the original provision for a period of two years.

The research done by the ACT Community Law Reform Committee as part of its reference on sexual assault law and procedure indicated that the majority of sex offence victims have two main fears about the legal process. They are: being cross-examined and being in court in the presence of the accused. The Bill, during the period of its operation, will at least remove one of those fears and hopefully make the process of giving evidence generally less traumatic. The Bill continues an important initiative in improving the position of victims in the criminal justice system and, consequently, their willingness to access the criminal justice system to have crimes of sexual assault prosecuted. I commend the Bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Ms Follett) adjourned.

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