Support for DFV survivors through video evidence and extra protections for journalists become law

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence The Honourable Shannon Fentiman

A pilot allowing the use of police body-worn camera footage in court for domestic and family violence victim survivors will be established following passage of the Evidence and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 in the Queensland Parliament today.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Women and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Shannon Fentiman said the Bill would deliver a range of reforms, including the new pilot program as well as better protections for journalists.

“We know it can be extremely traumatic for victims of domestic and family violence (DFV) when giving evidence in court,” Minister Fentiman said.

“That’s why we will be running a pilot that will police captured camera footage as evidence-in-chief in domestic and family violence matters.

“This can reduce trauma for survivors by avoiding the task of telling their story multiple times and can reduce the opportunity for offenders to intimidate victims.

“We are unwavering in our commitment to protecting Queenslanders from DFV as we have recently demonstrated in our response to the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce’s first report.

“The reforms Parliament has passed today will further strengthen our response by ensuring our justice system supports victims in a trauma informed way when they come forward.”

The legislation provides a framework for a pilot allowing video statements taken by trained police officers to be admissible as a survivor’s evidence-in-chief in criminal proceedings for a domestic violence offence, including breaches of domestic violence orders.

These reforms include a range of safeguards designed to limit the trauma and protect the privacy of survivors who give evidence in this way.

Consideration is being given to the operation of a 12-month pilot which would run simultaneously in two Magistrates Courts locations at Ipswich and Southport, and further consultation will be undertaken soon with key stakeholders about the details of the pilot.

The pilot will be the subject of an independent evaluation with impacts on fair trial rights of the accused, as well as the experiences of survivors being key components of this evaluation.

The Attorney said shield law protections for journalists’ confidential informants were also passed by the parliament and would provide important protections for journalists who may rely on confidential sources at times.

“We want to make sure our laws protect journalists and their sources to ensure a free, independent and effective media,” she said.

“While journalists’ sources are generally identified in media reports, there are some occasions when important information can only be reported through confidential sources – that’s why we have put these protections in place.

“The shield laws provide protection for confidential informants by providing that journalists, and other relevant persons such as editors and producers, cannot be compelled to answer a question or produce a document that would disclose their informant’s identity.

“These laws also recognise that in some cases the informant’s identity may need to be disclosed, with the new laws allowing the shield to be removed if it is in the public interest.”

The Attorney said these laws delivered on the Palaszczuk Government’s commitment to strengthen journalists’ ability to protect the identity of their sources where necessary to ensure Queenslanders can always access the truth.

“The new laws recognise that modern journalism takes many forms with news and information being provided to the public across various platforms and mediums,” she said.

“These laws give journalists the ability to maintain the anonymity of their confidential informants in proceedings in Queensland courts, including the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

“The shield laws also apply to search warrants to ensure confidential informants are not vulnerable at an early stage of an investigation.”

Minister Fentiman said the Bill also amends the Criminal Code in response to a recommendation handed down in the Daniel Morcombe coronial inquest.

“The coronial recommendation in Daniel’s case raised very complex issues,” she said.

“The Bill passed today achieves the right balance between the timely return of a victim’s body to their family and loved ones and ensuring an accused person’s right to a fair trial.

“The new laws create a clear process in relation to viewing and examining human remains which allows criminal courts to have regard to the need not to unnecessarily delay the return of a deceased person’s body under the coronial system.”

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