Court system is unfair and traumatic for child sexual abuse victims, inquiry chair says

The Guardian

Calla Wahlquist
Wednesday 2 August 2017

The court process is unfair and often traumatic for child victims of sexual abuse, the chair of the royal commission into institutional child sexual abuse has said.

In a speech delivered at a conference in Sydney on Wednesday, Justice Peter McClellan said that reliance on cross examination in criminal trials, which was intended to help juries determine the truth of any particular witnesses’ claim, was damaging to vulnerable witnesses like children or victims of sexual abuse.

The royal commission is expected to recommend changes to the trial process when it hands down its final report on 15 December. Among the options being considered, McClellan said, are introducing to all states and territories the Queensland crime of persistent sexual offences, which does not require the victim to recall the details of specific incidents.

Other options under consideration are providing a standard document to all complainants and witnesses explaining the process of giving evidence; introducing victim intermediary schemes; and recommending the further use of special hearings that would allow complainants to give evidence and be cross-examined several months before the jury is empanelled.

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