Sex abuse survivor advocates welcome Supreme Court move to move to prioritise child sex abuse cases

Court seeks to remedy 'traumatising' delays in alleged child sex abuse cases

Advocates for survivors of child sex abuse have welcomed a move to expedite cases currently before the Supreme Court.

Last week in the Supreme Court in Burnie, Tasmania, Justice Helen Wood discussed with defence lawyers and prosecution a number of matters involving child complainants which she was seeking to prioritise.

Last year it was reported the backlog of cases before the Supreme Court had grown substantially, and that many cases faced multiple year delays before a resolution could be reached.

A spokesperson for the Supreme Court said that while the backlog was larger than desirable, it had dropped compared to last year.

Regardless of the backlog, they said the court had worked for a number of years to prioritise alleged sex abuse matters.

"For a number of years, the Supreme Court has been actively case managing all sexual assault cases (including those involving child complainants) in an attempt to expedite the finalisation of such cases," the spokesperson said.

It is a harrowing experience just talking about the violence they have been through.

Jill Maxwell

"The objective involves early identification of issues relevant to the trial, and consideration of alternative procedures to enable witnesses to give evidence in such cases to minimise anxiety and trauma.

"Child complainants are among the most vulnerable people involved in the criminal justice system."

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Frances Pratt, acting chief executive for sexual assault survivor advocacy and support organisation Laurel House, said the additional trauma children can face in the court system can be "horrifying".

"We are extremely supportive of the supreme court's commitment to prioritising the needs of young people," Ms Pratt said.

"The idea of traumatising young people... during a lengthy judiciary process is horrifying."

Sexual Assault Support Service chief executive Jill Maxwell said survivors may have already waited years when they seek support and contact police.

"It is a harrowing experience just talking about the violence they have been through," Ms Maxwell said.

"For those that do want to go through this process it is really important they are not waiting years."

The court spokesperson said the move was informed by a "substantial body of research that indicates that child complainants often suffer anxiety and trauma if the finalisation of their case is delayed".

This story Court seeks to remedy 'traumatising' delays in alleged child sex abuse cases first appeared on The Advocate.