A scheme to help reduce the trauma associated with giving evidence in court is being introduced in the ACT.
The witness intermediary scheme was one of the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It means independent communication specialists, or intermediaries, will be available to help witnesses give clear evidence to the police and to the courts.
In the ACT, a staged approach will be taken and will initially include child complainants in sexual offence matters and child witnesses in homicide matters.
Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates, who has been calling for the initiative, said trauma can affect a victim's ability to clearly recollect and recount a violent incident.
"Intermediaries can assist by requesting breaks when witnesses become tired or distressed, and asking for questions to be rephrased to help vulnerable witnesses understand," Ms Yates said.
"Giving evidence to police and the courts can compound victims' trauma, particularly where court proceedings may be drawn out. Intermediary schemes in other jurisdictions are working well, and the ACT scheme is expected to improve access to justice for vulnerable community members."
The funding, $929,000 in the first year and a little more than $1.3 million in 2020-21, was set aside in the ACT budget. It totals $5.8 million over the next four years. Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said impartial and independent intermediaries will be employed to "enhance the fairness of the justice system".
"Giving evidence can be a particularly daunting experience for children, and this scheme will support young witnesses to better articulate their evidence in court proceedings, as well as their responses under cross-examination," Mr Ramsay said.