In 2005 the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) produced a report, Responding to sexual assault: The challenge of change (DPP & AFP 2005), which made 105 recommendations for reforming the way sexual offence cases are handled by the ACT’s criminal justice system. The Sexual Assault Reform Program (SARP) is one key initiative developed in response to these recommendations. Managed by the ACT Justice and Community Safety Directorate (JACS), SARP’s main objective is to improve aspects of the criminal justice system relating to:
- processes and support for victims of sexual offences as they progress through the system;
- attrition in sexual offence matters in the criminal justice system; and
- coordination and collaboration among the agencies involved.
In November 2007 the ACT Attorney-General announced $4 million of funding for several SARP reforms. This funding provided for additional victim support staff; a dedicated additional police officer, prosecutor and legal policy officer; and an upgrade of equipment for the Supreme Court and Magistrates Court, including improvements in technology to assist witnesses in giving evidence, and the establishment of an off-site facility to allow witnesses to give evidence from a location outside of the court.
In addition, the reform agenda included a number of legislative amendments that changed how evidence can be given by victims of sexual and family violence offences, children and other vulnerable witnesses. The primary objectives of these legislative changes are to provide an unintimidating, safe environment for vulnerable witnesses (including sexual offence complainants) to give evidence and to obtain prompt statements from witnesses to improve the quality of evidence captured (DPP 2009: 13).