New laws that will allow victims of family violence to give recorded statements via police body-cameras have been welcomed by support workers.
Statements made at the scene of family violence incidents and recorded on the body cameras, being trialled in Ballarat, will be able to be used as evidence in court after Premier Daniel Andrews announced a raft of new family violence measures.
Berry Street senior family violence manager Denise O’Dowd said the changes would take some pressure off victims.
“We see it as a very positive move that will take pressure and stress off women because this will provide further evidence,” Ms O’Dowd said.
“Having this statement able to be used as evidence in court will be very beneficial, especially for our culturally and linguistically diverse clients for whom English is not a first language.”
Ballarat police superintendent Jenny Wilson said recording family violence victim statements at a scene “means the victim doesn’t have to retell it again which reduces the revictimisation of the victim”.
“It also provides us with a better level of evidence which is able to be directly translated in to court … which we think will inform courts better about these types of incidents.”
Superintendent Wilson said in other jurisdictions, the use of body camera evidence from family violence incidents had seen matters resolved earlier in the court process, reducing the impact on victims, witnesses and freeing up court time.
Victoria Police respond to a family violence incident every seven minutes.
The Justice Legislation Amendment (Family Violence Protection and Other Matters) Bill 2018 will also allow victims to file family violence intervention order applications online by making a formal declaration of truth, and for courts to make interim family violence intervention orders on their own motion at any point during the criminal process such as during bail hearings, committal hearings, at trial, sentencing and on appeal.
This will allow the courts to act immediately to manage any risk to a victim’s safety based on material emerging from the proceedings, and may alleviate the need for victim survivors to apply for an interim order.
The Family Violence Protection Act 2008 will also expand to include dowry-related abuse and forced marriage as examples of family violence.