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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 202780 Find in a Library
Title: National Child Sexual Assault Reform Committee
Author(s): Annie Cossins
Date Published: May 2003
Page Count: 6
Sponsoring Agency: Australian Institute of Criminology
Canberra ACT, 2601, Australia
Sale Source: Australian Institute of Criminology
GPO Box 2944
Canberra ACT, 2601,
Document: PDF
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Document (Online)
Language: English
Country: Australia
Annotation: This paper recommends features for a specialist child sexual offenses court in Australia and describes a pilot project for such a court in New South Wales (Australia).
Abstract: This paper recommends that a child sexual offenses court be established in each jurisdiction in Australia. This recommendation is based on the findings that overseas specialist courts, which have dealt with sex offenses and family violence matters, have reduced disposition times and stay rates, increased the number of cases that go to trial and proceed to sentencing, increased conviction rates and guilty plea rates, and reduced complainants' experiences of secondary trauma. This paper recommends that such a specialist court in Australia would have exclusive jurisdiction over child sexual abuse cases. A data-collection method would be established to allow for an evaluation of the court's effectiveness, and a specific agency would be assigned responsibility for managing, monitoring, and evaluating the court. The court would be staffed by specialist judges and prosecutors who are trained in child development. There would be judge-only trials, and court-appointed and trained intermediaries would be used to conduct cross-examination in age-appropriate language on behalf of the defense in order to eliminate contact between defense counsel and the complainant. The trials would be in an adversarial format. There would also be mandatory use of closed-circuit television for a complainant's testimony in chief and cross-examination in accordance with existing legislation. A child witness service would prepare the child for trial proceedings and provide for pretrial and posttrial counseling. New South Wales is conducting a pilot project for the prosecution of child sex offenses with specialized procedures and facilities under the existing district court and local court structures rather than as a separate court. The procedures used include the use of dual plasma screens to allow for split-screen capabilities and document cameras for the transmission of exhibits between the courtroom and the remote room where the child witness resides. The remote room is a secure area with two soundproof rooms that contain closed-circuit television equipment and a reception area and waiting room, as well as a private interview room and a child's playroom. Children are entitled to have a support person with them in the remote room as long as that person is not a witness in the trial. The pilot program will be evaluated within 2 years of the date of its beginning. Outcomes to be evaluated are listed in this paper.
Main Term(s): Juvenile witnesses
Index Term(s): Child Sexual Abuse; Children in the courtroom; Court of limited jurisdiction; Court procedures; Court structure; Criminal Justice System Response to Victims; Foreign courts; Juvenile victims; Victim reactions to the Criminal Justice System; Witness Reactions to the Criminal Justice System
Note: Paper presented at the Child Sexual Abuse: Justice Response or Alternative Resolution Conference held in Adelaide, Australia, May 1-2, 2003; downloaded November 6, 2003.
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