Police trial digitally recorded statements for family violence victims

Wednesday, 17 October 2018 at 4:53 am
Police trial digitally recorded statements for family violence victims

Victoria Police officers in Ballarat and Epping are trialing the collection of digitally recorded statements on their body worn cameras for victims of family violence.

The digitally recorded statement may be used as the victim’s evidence-in-chief in court; the aim of which is to help to reduce trauma associated with giving evidence in court for victims of family violence.

Twenty police officers have so far completed the approved training. The majority of police officers at the trial locations will complete the training by early November.

The trial will operate for at least 12 months and will be evaluated to measure the impact of the use of body worn cameras to capture statements on victims of family violence, police, courts, legal practitioners and on the administration of justice.

Family Violence Command Assistant Commissioner Dean McWhirter said this is a step forward in providing better support for victims of family violence.

“We understand it can be a difficult experience for victims to re-live the trauma of family violence incidents when giving evidence in court, and we’re hoping to reduce this,” AC Dean McWhirter said.

“The process will work in the same way a traditional written statement does – the victim will have to give informed consent prior to making their statement.

A digitally recorded statement will be used as the evidence-in-chief of a victim of family violence either in place of, or in addition to, a written statement. Police officers still have the option of taking a written statement.

The use of a digitally recorded statement as evidence-in-chief means that a victim will not need to repeat their experience in court. They will, however, still need to be present in court to attest to the truthfulness of the statement and for cross-examination.

“It is hoped that the digitally recorded evidence will also assist with police investigations and might increase guilty pleas by providing higher quality evidence in court.”

The trial is working towards acquitting a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence which found that there is potential for body worn cameras to be a beneficial tool in the response to, and management of, family violence incidents.