Western Australia is the latest state announcing new “remote witness” facilities for more effective litigation in regional communities.
On 16 November 2007, WA Attorney-General Jim McGinty announced a new remote witness facility set to operate at the Kununurra court-house.
What is a remote witness facility?
Mr McGinty highlighted the features of a remote witness facility include:
- a high-tech audio-visual system to allow vulnerable witnesses, such as victims of crime, to give evidence in a separate room;
- a specially fitted out room at Kununurra’s Coolibah Drive court-house;
- a video display system with large display screens;
- a new audio system; and
- a CCTV connection to the remote witness room.
The system replaces the court’s basic video-conferencing unit, which was wheeled around on a trolley.Remote facilities save time and protects victims of crime
According to the Attorney-General, the aim of the new facility is to:
- provide greater protection when giving evidence in court;
- protect vulnerable witnesses such as children, people suffering mental illness, and victims of family violence or sexual assault;
- allow victims to avoid the anxiety they would experience from face-to-face contact with their alleged assailant.
“Kununurra is the fourth regional court to get the new facilities this year, joining Karratha, Carnarvon and Esperance as part of a $1million regional roll-out of the new technology,” Mr McGinty said.
Kimberley MP Carol Martin also welcomed the new technology, for its potential to save some witnesses time and money in travelling long distances to testify in courts. This is because pre-recorded video testimony could be played to a court instead of a witness appearing in person.
Remote witness facilities are already available in other regional areas in WA such as Albany, Kalgoorlie, Bunbury, Busselton, Geraldton, South Hedland and Broome courts, as well as in some Perth criminal courts.ACT also sets its sights on remote witness facilities
The ACT has also recently announced a push for remote witness facilities, as part of a $4 million initiative to reform the criminal justice system.
According to Mr Corbell in a media release dated 13 November, the Sexual Assault Reform Program stems from concerning reports of the bad experience that victims of sexual assault express about the justice system. The initiative includes $1 million towards establishing an off-site remote witness facilities including fit-out for two court rooms with state-of-the-art technology to enable victims and witnesses to give best evidence without fear and intimidation.
“The injection of nearly $4 million over four years to improve the system’s response to victims of sexual assault will be money well spent if it means that victims feel that reporting to police and participating in the court process has been worthwhile – whatever the outcome of the case,” Mr Corbell said.