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Vulnerable witnesses

If the judge decides you are a 'vulnerable or sensitive witness', you may give testimony without facing the accused directly. You may either be screened off or appear through closed-circuit television and/or have a support person with you.

Many courts have facilities for witnesses who are deemed to be special or vulnerable witnesses. In most courts, these witnesses sit in a separate room and give their evidence via a camera that transmits his or her picture through to a TV screen in the courtroom. This room may even be located in a different building.

The witness can see the judge or magistrate on one screen in front of them and the prosecutor or defence counsel on another. Everyone in the courtroom can see the witness on the screens located around the courtroom, but the witness does not have to see the accused.

Most victims of serious sexual assault are eligible for special witness status.

How do I get special witness status?

If you have any concerns about your personal safety at court or about giving evidence in front of the defendant, discuss this with the prosecutor. The prosecutor may be able to apply to the court to have you declared a vulnerable witness. 

You can also raise your concerns with the Victim Support Service. VSS staff may need to talk to you about your concerns and provide a report to support the application made by the prosecutor.

Alternatively, you may be granted this status if the court believes your ability to give evidence will be affected if you are in an open court.

CCTV

Special witness status allows the witness to provide their evidence via closed circuit television (CCTV)

The courtroom is linked via CCTV to a separate room where you may give evidence in the trial, either pre-recorded or live.

A court appointed officer and a support person, if authorised, will be in the room with you.

You will be able to see the judge or magistrate and the prosecutor or defence counsel, but you will not be able see the accused person.

Most courts in Perth and country regions have CCTV facilities. Contact your local Victim Support Service office to find out what facilities are available at your local court.

The Victim Support Service can help by organising a CCTV rehearsal so the room and equipment is familiar to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will the accused person be able to see me?

Yes. There are screens in courts that allow everyone to see you while you are giving your evidence.

Are the CCTV facilities in the same building as the court room?

Yes. Each CCTV room is linked to a specific courtroom in the same building. The accused person will not be told the location of the CCTV room.

Can I choose my own support person?

Yes. However, the prosecutor and defence lawyer have to agree with your choice. The support person should be someone you trust and feel comfortable hearing your evidence.

Is CCTV the same as video link-up?

No. Video link-up is used when the witness is giving evidence from a different location to that of the court.

Last updated: 18-Feb-2013

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