It is important in all prosecution action that victims are treated with courtesy, compassion, cultural sensitivity and respect for their dignity and entitlements.
The CDPP Victims of Crime Policy sets out our obligations towards victims of crime including our responsibility to keep them informed of the progress of the prosecution and to consult with them where appropriate.
In addition to establishing effective processes and procedures linked to the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth, we have a dedicated and valued Witness Assistance Service to support the most vulnerable victims and witnesses involved in the matters we prosecute.
Witness Assistance Service
Our Witness Assistance Service (WAS) is a national service provided by qualified social workers located in our Sydney and Melbourne offices. The WAS consisted of seven full time equivalent positions during the reporting period.
Our WAS staff provide a range of information and support services including updates on the progress of a prosecution, general information about the prosecution process, court tours, referrals to support services, support at court and during conferences with legal staff, and information concerning victim impact statements and reparation orders.
The WAS delivers these services in accordance with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth and Victims of Crime Policy.
Referrals to the service
The WAS Referral Guidelines require that all identifiable child victims and victims of slavery, sexual servitude and forced marriage offences be referred to the Witness Assistance Service by prosecutors. Likewise, any direct family member of a person who has died as a result of an alleged offence, or any victim suffering really serious physical or psychological harm as a result of an alleged offence must be referred to the WAS. Such matters, known as Category A matters, must be referred to the WAS within 21 days of their arrival in the office in order to ensure that the most vulnerable victims of crime are provided with information and support as early as possible in the prosecution process.
Training and education
The WAS provides presentations and training to CDPP prosecutors and administrative support staff.
Between July and December, the Witness Assistance Manager and Assistant Director (Illegal Imports and Exports, Human Exploitation and Border Protection, Brisbane) delivered internal national training regarding Plea Negotiations and Victims of Crime to 124 prosecutors across the office.
In November, the WAS delivered a presentation at the formal induction program organised for new CDPP prosecutors in Sydney. Numerous informal inductions sessions were also provided to new prosecutors by the Witness Assistance Service throughout the reporting period.
In June, the WAS delivered internal training to prosecutors regarding Victim Impact Statements and Reparation Orders. This presentation was delivered via teleconference and approximately 100 prosecutors from across the whole office linked in to participate.
During the reporting period, the WAS delivered numerous internal training sessions to administrative support staff across the whole office that aimed to raise awareness and knowledge regarding our policy obligations towards victims of crime, promote a high quality nationally consistent approach to our work with victims of crime and promote effective working relationships.
The WAS also delivers training and presentations to various external stakeholder agencies.
In August, the Witness Assistance Manager attended the National Witness Assistance Service conference in Darwin and delivered a presentation titled Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse—the CDPP’s response.
The WAS staff regularly liaise with staff from the Red Cross Support for Trafficked People Program in order to help ensure that victims and witnesses involved in trafficking related prosecutions are provided with information and support. In November the WAS hosted mutual training sessions in both Sydney and Melbourne, for staff from the Red Cross Support for Trafficked People Program and the WAS. In December the WAS provided further training to Red Cross staff in Sydney. These training sessions assist both agencies to better understand each other’s respective roles and responsibilities and promote more effective working relationships.
In February, the WAS delivered a presentation to a delegation of officials visiting Australia from Vietnam, the topics covered included the CDPP Victims of Crime policy, the Witness Assistance Service Referral Guidelines and the role of the Witness Assistance Officer.
In June, the WAS delivered a webinar presentation to staff from Indonesia’s Witness and Victim Protection Agency. This session was organised by the Department of Home Affairs and was delivered to approximately 100 people via teleconference.
In June, the WAS delivered training via teleconference to a staff member from Anglicare who provides support services to victims of crime who reside on Norfolk Island.