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Crimes Amendment (Strengthening the Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Violence) Bill 2024

The Law Council of Australia welcomes the Australian Government’s commitment to improving the criminal justice response to sexual violence, including these proposed legislative reforms.

The Law Council supports the Bill’s aims of strengthening protections and criminal justice outcomes for vulnerable witnesses and victim-survivors of sexual violence, particularly women and children. We recognise that victim-survivors face significant barriers within the criminal justice system and are at a particular disadvantage compared with other witnesses when called to give evidence about their experiences. These issues were highlighted by the important findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission).1

The Law Council notes that it is important to recognise that most sexual offence proceedings relate to state and territory offences. The proposed amendments are limited to proceedings relating to federal offences listed under Part IAD of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth). These Commonwealth provisions cover a diverse range of offences, requiring a tailored approach to special protections available to vulnerable parties.

Reasonable and proportionate adjustments need to be made to court processes to enable victim-survivors to give their best evidence, given that such processes are frequently traumatic experiences. The Law Council supports measures designed to promote the rights of victim-survivors, strengthen available protections and provide courts with the necessary tools and flexibility, provided that such measures are carefully balanced against the right of the accused to a fair trial.

The Law Council therefore support the intent of proposed amendments outlined in the Bill.

Read the full submission below.


1 See, for example, the recommendation that State and territory governments should ensure that the necessary legislative provisions and physical resources are in place to allow for the prerecording of the entirety of a witness’s evidence in child sexual abuse prosecutions: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Final Report: Recommendations (15 December 2017) 107 [52]-[55].

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