Member for Isaacs

New protections for vulnerable witnesses and victims

29 May 2013

Legislation to protect vulnerable witnesses and victims in Commonwealth criminal proceedings has been passed by the Parliament.

Minister for Emergency Management
Special Minister of State
Minister for the Public Service and Integrity


Legislation to protect vulnerable witnesses and victims in Commonwealth criminal proceedings has been passed by the Parliament.

Prosecutions for human trafficking and slavery rely heavily on witness testimony, so it is vital that we have measures to assist victims to give their best possible evidence to the court, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC said.

The Bill passed yesterday by the Parliament will minimise the risk of retraumatisation these victims face when giving evidence by providing appropriate support and protection.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill will extend support to witnesses in Commonwealth criminal proceedings who are vulnerable due to the nature of the offence, or who have different needs due to a particular characteristic, such as age, cultural background or a disability.

Protections available will include the ability to give evidence by closedcircuit television, video recording or video link, and to have a support person accompany the witness when giving evidence.

The protections will apply automatically to victims of human trafficking, slavery and slaverylike offences, including forced marriage, in recognition of the extreme forms of trauma and exploitation they have experienced, Mr Dreyfus said

This Bill will also allow all individual victims of Commonwealth offences to make a victim impact statement, outlining the harm they have experienced as a result of the offence.

The Bill also included amendments to ensure the effective operation of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

The Integrity Commissioner will now have independent authority to access information held by AUSTRAC in relevant corruption investigations, and the ability to second employees of the AFP and other police forces who are not sworn police officers.
Amendments in this Bill will also ensure the efficient and effective review of AUSTRAC anti-money-laundering decisions and strengthen existing offences.

The amendments also enhance the processes for investigation and prosecution of people smuggling offences, Mr Dreyfus said.

They remove references to wrist X-rays as a prescribed age determination procedure, and confirm that the onus of proof in establishing age in people smuggling prosecutions lies with the prosecution.

This will ensure that legislation reflects the current practice of agencies not to use wrist Xrays to determine a persons age unless requested by the defence. A persons age continues to be a matter for judicial determination on the basis of the available information, similar to other matters required to be proved at trial.

Evidentiary certificates will now be available to streamline investigation and prosecution of people-smuggling offenders. These certificates will allow uncontested facts such as Customs data to be used as evidence in prosecution.