Video evidence of victims in domestic harm

Hard hitting visual evidence on camera could soon become the way of recording crimes of domestic harm on video for the Police

In a pilot project kicked off in two suburbs of south Auckland, the traditional method of recording hand written statements from victims of domestic harm is being replaced by Victim Video Statement– in the victim’s own words.

Police are now using technology—an app on their iPhones to record victims at the scene of family violence incidents, leading to a robust evidence.

Victims recording their statements on camera immediately after they have been physically abused assaulted is a grim reminder of injuries they suffered.

Also, a 10-minute video statement of the victim recorded on the mobile phone and later saved on iCloud, in comparison to a written statement which takes an average of  76 minutes, instantly frees up time for the police.

Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Ellwood who has been leading the Victim Video Statement pilot says: “We hope to achieve significant gains in less Police time spent attending family harm events, a shortening up of the Criminal Justice Pipeline, and significant savings in reducing court time for family harm prosecutions.”

Right now the pilot is being funded in two areas of south Auckland.

“It is about gathering best evidence and about providing that best evidence to Defence counsel as quickly as we can so those charged with offences can make an early informed decision about a plea in court. An early guilty plea can attract up to a 25 per cent discount on sentence. It also frees up court time.

“The average length of time to run through a prosecution in the Manukau District Court is 86 days (time of first appearance to time of resolution).

“When looking at only Family Harm cases, this extends out to 228 days. These figures are based on the 2015-2016 financial year.

“Overall, only 11 per cent of cases continue on to a Jury Trial or Judge-alone Trial.

“In Family Harm prosecutions, around 38 per cent of cases progress to Jury Trial or Judge-alone Trial, and of those we have convictions in only 28 per cent.

“One of the dynamics we deal with is a high level of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).

“Around 70 per cent of family harm prosecutions involve IPV, and in 80 per cent of those cases, the couples will want to remain together.

“The intention with our Victim Video Statement pilot is to produce statements that can be played as evidence in chief, and will therefore be best evidence of the victim’s version of events.”

He says that by lifting the standard of prosecution files and evidence in general, defendants will be better placed to make plea decisions, and the courts will have better evidence when considering individual cases.

However Mr Ellwood is cautious about the pilot project being adapted in east Auckland right away.

“A robust evaluation will be done. We are currently funded for a six month pilot in two areas, and will then look to how we can extend it.

“Right now we are tracking every video through the court process and collecting a lot of data in relation to each of those cases.”

 

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