Law Reform Commission of Western Australia
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Publications

Project 87 - Evidence of children and other vulnerable witnesses

Project No. 87

Commenced: 1989
Completed: 1991

The reference resulted from a suggestion made by the Commission to the Attorney General. It was prompted by prevailing controversy in many jurisdictions about whether there should be special procedures or rules allowing children and other vulnerable witnesses to give evidence without the necessity of physically appearing in court or confronting the accused. This was perceived to be of particular importance in cases of child sexual abuse, where the sight of the accused often had a powerful negative effect on the witness. Incentive for this review arose out of the growth in public awareness of, and concern about, the sexual abuse of children. In August 1990 a petition was tabled in the Western Australian Parliament bearing 79,567 signatures and urging the government to pass legislation to deal with sexual and other crimes against children. These issues were also dealt with in 1987 in a report by the Government Task Force on Child Sexual Abuse. The Commission’s terms of reference, however, extended beyond children to include other vulnerable witnesses, such as the elderly, witnesses with particular disabilities and some victims of adult sexual offences.

Terms of Reference

In February 1989 the Commission was given a reference to review the law and practice governing the giving of evidence by children and other vulnerable witnesses in legal proceedings.

Outcomes

In 1992, Parliament passed the Acts Amendment (Sexual Offences) Act 1992 (WA) which implemented some of the Commission’s recommendations. Later that year, Parliament passed the Acts Amendment (Evidence of Children and Others) Act 1992 (WA) which implemented the remaining recommendations in the Commission’s final report.

In 1999 the Commission reviewed the legislative regime governing evidence for their comprehensive review of the criminal and civil justice system: see Project No 92.

Last updated: 31-Jan-2017

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