31.05.15

Video Evidence of Victims in Domestic Violence Cases to be Used by Police in Court


Why do so many cases of domestic violence get dismissed in court?

In 2013, 8775 out of 34,789 applications for domestic violence orders/criminal charges were dismissed by the court, after the complaint was withdrawn by the alleged victim.

It is well known by all parties involved in domestic violence proceedings, that in our Local Courts, victims often decide on their own that they do not wish to proceed with their complaint, without any undue pressure or influence from their partners. These alleged victims often beg and plead with the Police to withdraw the charges.Often they simply do not wish for their perpetrators to have to face court, and the prospect of conviction and possible jail.

At the moment, NSW Police guidelines generally do not permit to Prosecution to withdraw the charge following the making of a complaint and filing of a charge. It is a very common occurrence that an alleged victim simply refuses to attend court. The Prosecution generally do not seek a warrant for the alleged Victim’s attendance at court (even though they are perfectly entitled to), forcing the Prosecution to “offer no evidence” in it’s prosecution of the defendant.

Video Statements now introduced by NSW Police

In a response to the volume of complaints being withdrawn, and the lack of actual convictions that flow from the making of a domestic violence complaint (and criminal charges laid), Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has announced the making of “video statements” as a means to obtain a version of events from the alleged victim shortly following the alleged offence.

NSW will be the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce the measures.

It is hoped the move will significantly increase guilty pleas by perpetrators, and reduce the number of victims withdrawing from cases.

“Never before has a victim of domestic abuse been able to articulate in court the detail and the raw emotion of an incident as clearly as when it happened,” Commissioner Scipione has said.

Six hundred video cameras have been distributed, 2500 police having received training in how to take the videos, most of which will likely be filmed in the homes of the families where domestic violence is alleged to have occurred.

Whilst recent measures have been put in place regarding the making of AVO’s and stricter conditions on those AVO’s (including non-contact provisions that are almost always now sought by the NSW Police at first instance), it appears that NSW continues to struggle with the problem of domestic violence. None of the measures introduced in recent years appear to be working. Despite stricter conditions including non-contact, alleged victims still appear to be very often refusing to co-operate with the Police in following through with their complaint.

Police Minister Troy Grant has said:

“This will create a strong, timely piece of visual evidence for the courts that will reduce the risk of victims getting pressured by assailants into changing their stories down the track”.

These measures will assist in ensuring that victims are compelled to “stick with their story”.

The Criminal Procedure Amendment (Domestic Violence Complainants) Act requires the victim to consent to making a video statement. The alleged victim also had the option of either providing video evidence or a written statement. Police would have the discretion as to whether the video would be played in court or not.

Will the taking of Video Statements ensure that alleged the Victim attends Court?

Unfortunately, the introduction of video evidence does not address the continuing problem of alleged victims ‘changing their mind’ and refusing to co-operate with Police during the court proceedings. Victims would still be compelled to attend court to adopt the video evidence, be subjected to questioning by the Prosecution and cross examination by the defence.

The hard reality is that alleged victims, after the realisation of the potential consequences of criminal proceedings against their partner, simply do not want them prosecuted.

Education should be the focus

Education should be an additional focus in tackling the problem of domestic violence in NSW, rather than continuing to seek the implementation of measures to ensure easier convictions. “On the spot” AVOs, have proven to be ineffective, as have internal policies by the the Police regarding stricter conditions on AVOs. More resources need to be injected into promoting services and education for those who are victims of domestic violence. Domestic Violence Liaison services and Community Initiatives to help those victims in need are few and far between.

If you are, or have been a victim of domestic violence, for more information on where to get help, click here.

If you would like to speak to one of our Lawyers about your situation, call us anytime on 1300 595 299.