Domestic violence complainants and other vulnerable witnesses will have the opportunity to give evidence more comfortably in court thanks to a new remote witness room to be built at both Lismore and Byron Bay courthouses.
Local Nationals Member of the Legislative Council Ben Franklin said this was a positive step forward for victim-survivors to be able to feel more secure in reporting abuse and giving evidence in court.
“Remote witness rooms mean that victim-survivors do not have to face their alleged abuser or feel intimidated in the court room. They can give evidence from a secure and safe room via videolink to help them feel more comfortable,” Mr Franklin said.
“Speaking in a courtroom can be a daunting experience, especially for those who have faced trauma, and it takes courage so I’m glad our region will have two new remote witness rooms to support victim-survivors.
The projects are being delivered as part of a $9 million Commonwealth COVID-19 stimulus funding package.
The upgrades include:
- Lismore Courthouse – a new remote witness room, state-of-the-art audio-visual link equipment, acoustic panelling, new furniture and secure access doors; and
- Byron Bay Courthouse – a new remote witness room, state-of-the-art audio-visual link equipment and an upgraded safe room.
Attorney General and Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Mark Speakman said witnesses have commonly been through serious trauma and coming to court can be very stressful.
“This is particularly true for victim-survivors of domestic, family, and sexual violence,” Mr Speakman said.
“These investments are part of our ongoing commitment to support victim-survivors if they choose to report to police, and to help them feel confident in coming to court.”
Later this year, self-represented defendants will be banned from personally cross examining complainants in domestic violence criminal proceedings and related apprehended domestic violence order proceedings, under new laws passed last November.
As part of the same reforms, complainants in these proceedings also now have a prima facie entitlement to give evidence remotely via AVL and in a closed court.
The works will also include upgrades of essential safety features, funded from the NSW Government’s $100 million Sustaining Critical Infrastructure Program, announced in the November 2020 budget.
The contracts for Lismore and Byron Bay courthouses have been awarded to Intrec Management Pty Ltd. Start dates are currently being finalised and the stimulus projects will be completed by the end of the year.