Video evidence urged for domestic violence cases

POLICE should be able to use initial video evidence given by victims, rather than written statements, to better show in court the effects of domestic violence, an independent MP says.

Legally classing the victims as "vulnerable" would allow police to replace written statements with the raw video, Richard Torbay said as part of a campaign for his New England constituents who had been abused.

"This is something that I believe needs to be done if we are serious about domestic violence," he told the Herald.

The change could encourage perpetrators to plead guilty, avoiding the need for their victims to face them in court, experts said.

But they agreed that showing a video of a victim just after the event could be against the wishes of victims who wanted to recant their statements.

Changes in the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 two years ago allowed courts to admit video evidence rather than a police statement read to the court.

But only children and mentally impaired people were classed as "vulnerable" under the act.

Mr Torbay said victims of domestic violence should be included in the classification.

"People in the front line are saying to me, 'If a woman suffering domestic violence isn't a vulnerable person in terms of being displaced and homeless I don't know what a vulnerable person is?"'

"Vulnerable" victims are still required to appear in court to be cross-examined.

The effect of the evidence would encourage perpetrators to enter guilty pleas, said Rochelle Braaf, a senior research officer at the federally funded Domestic Violence Clearing House.

But if video evidence would make it harder for victims to recant their statements to police, the issue could be contentious, Ms Braaf said. If victims were not afforded discretion, they might avoid the courts.

"They are not going to seek justice, they are going to seek some other kind of remedy," Dr Braaf said.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General, John Hatsiztergos, said the State Government would consider any representation from Mr Torbay, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

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