Guide to court processes involving children and young people
Includes changes to court processes as a result of Keep Them Safe, Criminal matters in the Children's Court, and Victims Services
Victims Services, part of the Department of Attorney General and Justice, provides support, information, referrals, counselling and compensation services to victims of violent crimes and witnesses to violent crimes. Victims Services also provides compensation and counselling services to relatives of someone who has died as a result of a violent crime.
NSW has established a Charter of Victims Rights, to protect and promote the rights of victims of crime. The Charter requires government agencies and a range of service providers, such as non-government organisations and contractors funded by the State, to meet the needs of victims in a range of ways. Victims Services have also produced a version of the Charter in a format that is appropriate for children as well as a range of tools to familiarise children with court processes.
Information about accessing compensation, approved counselling and other services for victims of crime can be obtained from the Victims Access Line (VAL), an information and referral support service, which provides a range of services including information about accessing Victims Registers and preparation of Victim Impact Statements.
VAL operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can be contacted on 02 8688 5511 or 1800 633 063 (toll free from a landline). VAL also provides a Walk in Service where clients may meet with a Referral and Support Officer to discuss their support needs as victims of crime at its Parramatta Office.
More information about accessing victims services can also be obtained from the Victims Services website.
A child or young person who has been abused or neglected may receive counselling from:
- NSW Health Sexual Assault Service
- NSW Healths Child Protection Counselling Service (formerly known as Physical Abuse and Neglect of Children PANOC)
- a private counselling service.
- Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Counsellors (CASAC) Services
- Victims Services Approved Counselling Scheme
The Victims Services Approved Counselling Scheme can provide up to 22 hours of free counselling to any victim of violent crime (sexual assault, domestic violence [including child witnesses], physical assault, armed robbery and homicide). Any counsellor providing this service to children must have proven their capacity to provide therapeutic services to children.
Victims, or services working on behalf of victims, can complete an online form to apply for counselling. Further information is available at the Approved Counselling Scheme website or call 1800 633 063 to apply over the phone.
A convicted offender does not need to be identified for a victim to qualify for counselling or compensation, although the victim needs to be able to provide substantiation of the act of violence.
An eligible victim can contact Victims Services and make an appointment to speak to one of the case managers who can assist with completing their compensation claim. The case manager will explain and assist the victim through the process of the claiming for compensation and Victims Services can, with the victims consent, obtain their medical records and information to assist in the claim.
In the cases requiring a care plan, case managers are encouraged to explore options for victims compensation on behalf of children and young people this approach is consistent with recommendations from the NSW Ombudsman 2010 report highlighting the need to better support children and young people in statutory care who have been victims of violent crime.
Information about accessing victims services can also be obtained from the Victims Services website.
Children as witnesses in criminal proceedings
A child or young person who is appearing as a witness to give evidence in criminal proceedings may have special needs for information to assist their understanding of the Court process and procedures. An adult to support them through the Court process may also be required.
In matters where a child or young person is a victim or witness and is being called on to give evidence, the solicitor for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions should meet with the child or young person and their parents/carers before the proceedings begin to:
- assess the child or young persons competence to give evidence, including their language and concentration skills and understanding of time and locality
- decide whether a pre-recorded statement will be the main evidence
- understand the child or young persons level of anxiety in relation to the proceedings.
All children and young persons appearing as witnesses have the right to:
- the presence of a support person while giving evidence
- give their main evidence in the form of a recording, wholly or partly
- give all their evidence by closed circuit television (CCTV), or when CCTV facilities are not available, by alternative arrangements.
Children and young people who will be attending Court as a victim should refer to the Victims Services website where they can learn about the interactive resources are also available to provide information about the law and Court processes to help prepare them to attend Court.
The Witness Assistance Service works closely with agencies to ensure young witnesses and their carers receive counselling and support.
The Supporting victims of crime guidelines and Supporting victims of Crime: Information for OOHC NGO caseworkers factsheet provide assistance to NGO OOHC service providers in understanding and meeting their responsibilities towards victims of crime