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Working with a Witness Intermediary: A Panel Discussion on the Tasmanian Pilot Witness Intermediary Scheme

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Law Society of Tasmania

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Face to Face or, Webinar

Law Society of Tasmania

28 Murray Street Hobart, TAS

Webinar

by zoom, link and password made available to registrant by email, after approx. 5pm the day prior to event.

CPD Guide: 1 PS, SL

Please be aware this is offered as a F2F OR webinar so when booking it is important that you select attendance mode, accordingly. 

 

Run by the Department of Justice, this FREE information session will inform practitioners about amendments to the Evidence (Children and Special Witnesses) Act 2001.

The session is for lawyers and barristers who work in the areas of sexual offence and homicide related matters. 

 

Working with a Witness Intermediary: A Panel Discussion on the Tasmanian Pilot Witness Intermediary Scheme

The Pilot Witness Intermediary Scheme will commence on the 1st of March 2021. The Scheme is underpinned by changes to the Evidence (Children and Special Witnesses) Act 2001 and introduces communication specialists to the criminal justice system to ensure vulnerable witnesses have the opportunity to give their best evidence.

This panel discussion will focus on the changes to the legislation, an overview of the Tasmanian Scheme and how witness intermediaries work in practice, and give you access to a considerable amount of expertise on the subject:

  • Amber Mignot, Director, Child Abuse Royal Commission Response Unit (CARCRU)
  • Marita O'Connell, Assistant Director, CARCRU, Project Manager, Intermediary Program
  • Sharyn Hall, Barrister, NSW

 

Key takeaways

Participants will gain an understanding of:

  • the changes to the Evidence (Children and Special Witnesses) Act 2001;
  • the Tasmanian Pilot Witness Intermediary Scheme; and
  • the role of a witness intermediary and how police, lawyers and courts work with witness intermediaries. 

 

Speaker Bios

 

    

Amber Mignot is the Director of the Child Abuse Royal Commission Response Unit responsible for coordinating the Tasmanian Government’s response to, and implementation of, government initiatives including the witness intermediary scheme arising from the Commonwealth Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Amber is a lawyer with extensive experience in administrative and criminal law, legislative and policy development and acted for the Tasmanian Government as solicitor and counsel during the Child Abuse Royal Commission.    


 

Marita O’Connell is the Project Manager for the Scheme. Marita spent many years as the Court Liaison Officer role for Forensic Mental Health Services where she was involved in the introduction of the Diversion List in the Magistrates Court. 

 

 

Sharyn Hall is a Barrister from NSW who practices primarily as a criminal defence lawyer. Ms Hall is an advocacy instructor with the Australian Advocacy Institute. She has experience working with witness intermediaries in NSW since their introduction in 2016 and has been involved in the training and education of witness intermediaries and lawyers regarding the use the witness intermediaries in the jurisdictions around Australia where they have been introduced. 


 

Background

On 15 October 2020, Parliament approved amendments to the Evidence (Children and Special Witnesses) Act 2001 to establish a Pilot Witness Intermediary Scheme. The Scheme commences on Monday 1 March, 2021.

A witness intermediary is a trained professional with specialist skills in communication. Intermediaries assist vulnerable witnesses to give their best evidence by identifying a witness’ communication capacities and providing advice on special measures at the police investigative stage where they assist the witness to give their best evidence by advising police on questioning style and other measures and the court to obtain clarity of evidence. This assists in access to justice and also helps reduce the rates of re-traumatisation associated with the criminal justice process. The role of an intermediary is strictly an impartial one. The Pilot Scheme will apply to witnesses (other than defendants) in sexual assault and homicide related matters.

Witnesses (other than the accused) that are children or adults with a communication need are eligible to have an intermediary. Intermediaries are also available to the same witness cohort at the court stage.

What this means for you

The Scheme introduces a new hearing, called the Ground Rules Hearing where an assessment report (prepared by an intermediary at the request of the court) is considered. The court will then make directions around the questioning of the witness and any other special measures that may be required. This element introduces significant change to the questioning of witnesses in court, including cross-examination, and will potentially create changes to the manner in which witnesses give their evidence.

These changes will likely have an effect on your practice so this session aims to provide as much information as possible to practitioners to assist with understanding the Scheme prior to its commencement on Monday 1 March, 2021.

 

 

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Working with a Witness Intermediary

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