Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) is to receive $18.6 million over the next four years to ensure that victims of domestic and family violence (DFV) are not further victimised by perpetrators in court.
Attorney-General and DFV Prevention Minister Shannon Fentiman on Friday said LAQ would receive the additional funding to support additional legal representation so witnesses are cross-examined by a trained lawyer, rather than defendants – alleged perpetrators.
A statement released by the Government said: “This follows amendments introduced into Parliament last year to the Evidence Act that will make victims of domestic violence offences protected witnesses.”
“Protected witnesses cannot be cross-examined by an unrepresented defendant.
“An accused person who refuses legal assistance to cross-examine a protected witness cannot personally conduct the cross-examination.
“The Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce found that perpetrators may use the court process to continue to harm or intimidate their victims.”
Ms Fentiman, in her statement, said: “We know it can be extremely traumatic for victims of DFV to give evidence in court, and that the prospect of being cross-examined by a perpetrator may be so frightening that victims may not be able to give their best evidence, or not give it at all.”
“This was a recommendation from the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, and I am proud that this government has taken its recommendations so seriously.”
“Together with the proposed amendments to the Evidence Act, this $18.6 million will ensure that the courts’ processes cannot be used to inflict further suffering upon those who need the courts’ protection.”
On Friday, the Government also released a statement saying a pilot program allowing use of police-captured video statements as evidence in DFV cases, at Southport and Ipswich Magistrates Court, was proving successful.
“Amendments to the Evidence Act in 2022 allowed for a pilot of the use of police-captured video statements as evidence-in-chief in domestic and family violence-related criminal proceedings,” the statement reads.
“The pilot framework includes a range of safeguards designed to limit the trauma and protect the privacy of survivors who give evidence in proceedings through police-captured camera footage.
“Southport Magistrates Court and Ipswich Magistrates Court have been piloting the use of police captured video statements since September 2022.
“Since the pilot began video-recorded evidence has been used in 157 domestic violence-related matters across both pilot locations (Southport and Ipswich).”