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Witness Assistance Service

Winner of the
StudyWeb Award 1999

Witness Assistance Service

The Office of Director of Public Prosecutions offers support to victims of crime, witnesses and their families — anywhere in the Northern Territory throughout the criminal justice process. There are eight members of the Witness Assistance Service (WAS) — five in Darwin, three in Alice Springs.

Witness Assistance Service

WAS notifies victims of crime in writing about the service and invites them to make contact. Victims can use a freecall telephone number 1800 659 449. Victims are provided with several publications at the appropriate times. These include WAS pamphlet and the Victim Impact Statements booklet which includes a pro forma for victims who choose to prepare a victim impact statement independently. These two publications received the prize for runner up in the Institute of Public Administrators Plain English Awards in 1999. The WAS pages of this website won a Study Web award for academic excellence in 1999. These are attached.

WAS offers the following:

Support

This includes court preparation. It can include court familiarisation visits, demonstration of vulnerable witness facilities and observation of a court sitting. Support regularly involves accompanying witnesses to court and being with a witness either in the close-circuit television room or behind a screen. WAS can also provide post court follow up. We know that giving evidence in court is often a traumatic experience which can revictimise people.  

Information

WAS will give information about the date, time and place of the next court appearance, the stage that the matter is up to and whether attendance is required.

Interpreters

WAS can assess the need for and organise the provision of interpreters to assist witnesses in their appearances before the court.

Referral

Victims, witnesses and their families can be referred to agencies for appropriate counselling, including specialist sexual assault and domestic violence counselling, psychologists, psychiatrists or solicitors for financial assistance claims. WAS has established contacts with a wide variety of agencies.

Explanation

The explanation of legal processes, language, behaviour and rules of evidence is vital. The aim is to explain technical legal business in plain English. Research shows that when people have a better understanding and are given timely information about what is happening, and why, they report a higher level of satisfaction with their experience of the criminal justice system.

Liaison

WAS acts as a point of reference for victims, witnesses and their families. Liaison between police and victim, prosecutor and victim, police and prosecutor or counsellor and victim is a valuable function.

Victim Impact Statements

WAS can assist victims of crime to prepare victim impact statements. Victims of crime have the right to present to the court a statement detailing how a crime has affected their lives. Victim impact statements were introduced in the Northern Territory in March 1997. Since then many people have decided to participate in the criminal justice system by exercising that right.

More Information

A Guide to the Victim Impact Statement Scheme

Victim Impact Statement (also available as Acrobat PDF)

Guidelines for Provision of Documentation in Relation to Crimes (Victim Assistance) Act Application

How we can help you

Helping Victims of Crime

Australasian Directory of Victim Services