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Publication date: Thursday, 3 December 2015
Following the announcement in October of a specialist child sexual assault evidence program that will commence in March 2016, the call for Children's Champions has gone out this week.
The Victims Services branch of the Department of Justice is now seeking 'Children's Champions' – also known as Witness Intermediaries – to better support child witnesses through the criminal justice process in the NSW District Court.
Children's Champions will help child complainants of sexual assault give their best evidence in criminal investigations and at trial. The Champions will help child witnesses understand the questions they are asked and get their answers across effectively.
In what is expected to be a challenging role, Children's Champions will work closely with victims, witnesses, police officers, legal professionals and the judiciary. Children's Champions may be called upon to attend an investigative interview and/or District Court proceedings with a child complainant, and will produce a report for investigators and the court that outlines the child's communication needs.
The pilot program, which will commence in the District Court in Sydney and Newcastle on 31 March 2016, will also expand the use of pre-recorded evidence in court proceedings, to ease the trauma experienced by child complainants in the criminal justice process – while preserving an accused person's right to a fair trial.
For the duration of the three-year pilot program, Children's Champions will act on a contract basis. Social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists are eligible to apply.