The Witness Assistance Service is a unit within the Director of Public Prosecutions and its primary role is to provide support to victims of crime and witnesses who need to appear in Court to give evidence. When Witness Assistance Service officers are allocated to cases, they will make contact with the victim and keep them informed as to the progress of the case and organise for the victim to meet with the prosecutor dealing with the case as required.
The Witness Assistance Service provided the following support:
- Assisting victims and witnesses to understand the court and legal process;
- Showing victims and witnesses the court facilities for witnesses before they are required to give evidence;
- Supporting victims and witnesses during proofing sessions with the prosecutor, when giving evidence in court and while waiting to give their evidence;
- Informing prosecutors, police or court staff of any special needs of the victim or witness, including whether consideration should be given to the witness being deemed a Vulnerable Witness;
- Referring victims to counselling or other on-going support services as appropriate;
- Providing victims with information and referral on how to apply for financial assistance available under the Crimes (Victims Assistance) Act or through Victims of Crime NT;
- Booking interpreters;
- Assisting victims with the preparation of Victim Impact Statements or Report;
- Contacting victims and obtaining their views on reviews or changes to the status of an offender found unfit to plead due a Mental Health condition; and
- Assisting victims to have input into Parole hearings and any special conditions for release of the offender that may relate to the victim.
The Witness Assistance Service has staff based in three offices throughout the Northern Territory; these are in Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs. Witness Assistance Officers will regularly travel out to other regional and remote courts to assist witnesses with hearings that occur at those courts and to meet with victims prior to court. An officer from Alice Springs regularly visits Tennant Creek to make contact with victims and witnesses and prepare them for Court.
Witness Assistance Service officers also networks with other service providers try to ensure the victim has on-going supports in place and to ensure witnesses know about the assistance available to them in going to court.
Given the large volume of cases going to Court, the Witness Assistance Service can not have an officer allocated to every case. Priority is given to vulnerable or special needs witnesses which include:
- Witnesses with an intellectual or other disability;
- Victims of sexual offences;
- Families of deceased victims;
- Elderly witnesses;
- Domestic Violence victims;
Cases can be referred to the Witness Assistance Service through the prosecutor, the police, support agencies or services that may be working with the victim or by self-referral from the victim.
Download/print the full Support for Victims and Witnesses (PDF 218KB)
If you have any further questions or would like more information, please contact the Witness Assistance Service on Freecall 1800 659 449 or email us at AGD DPP Witness.AssistanceService@nt.gov.au