NAVIGATING the legal system can further add to the trauma of victims of crime.
The language can be difficult, the process confusing and the outcome often disappointing.
Add to that the need for a victim to repeatedly tell their story, and they are indeed re-living their trauma.
The psychological impact should never be underestimated – so how we treat our victims of crime during that process is critical to their ability to recover long-term.
Equally important is providing a safe space for those we are asking so much of. They should never have to worry about whether or not they are in physical danger when going through harrowing court processes. However, for too many going through that experience in regional Victorian courts, the risk to their physical safety is real. So too, is the risk to lawyers, magistrates and other court staff. Court safety is a real and serious issue.
Some of the 227 recommendations to come from the Royal Commission into Family Violence included the need for victims to be able to give evidence remotely or have access to safe rooms and separate entries to perpetrators in court. Specialist family violence courts, which currently operate in a small number of locations, will be in place within five years.
They will include safe waiting areas, separate entries and exits for victims and the accused, multilingual services, access for people with disabilities, remote witness facilities and security staffing and equipment.
Funding announced this week for some court upgrades, including the particularly unsafe Kyneton court, is welcome.
But there are too many courts across Victoria that remain very real danger grounds for victims, particularly women.
In towns such as Maryborough, Echuca and Bendigo, there is nowhere for women to access court in a safe environment away from their perpetrator.
We should not be asking women to face their perpetrators during the process designed to protect them.
The state government has shown commitment to addressing the scourge that is family violence, and we hope court safety is a priority in the coming months. It is critical victims of family violence, sexual assault, violent crime or other crimes against the person, are protected. We must also provide a safe workplace for working with them.
Nicole Ferrie, editor
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