Courthouses across the Hunter are getting a safety upgrade.
Safe rooms and remote witness rooms will be upgraded at Belmont, Cessnock, Maitland, Newcastle and Toronto courthouses.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Taylor Martin said the projects form part of a $9 million COVID-19 Commonwealth stimulus funding package.
“The upgrades to our local courthouses will help vulnerable people feel safer when coming to court and give witnesses a better private and secure area to prepare for court and to give their best evidence,” Taylor Martin said.
Attorney General and Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Mark Speakman said witnesses have commonly been through serious trauma and coming to court can be very stressful.
“This is particularly true for victim-survivors of domestic, family, and sexual violence,” Mark Speakman said.
“This is part of our ongoing commitment to support victim-survivors if they choose to report to police, and to help them feel confident in coming to court.”
The upgrades include:
- Belmont Courthouse – new remote witness room, state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, air conditioning and secure access doors;
- Cessnock Courthouse – upgraded safe room, new kitchenette, furniture and secure access;
- Maitland Courthouse – upgraded safe room and remote witness room, state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, new furniture and secure access doors;
- Newcastle Courthouse – upgraded remote witness room, state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, new furniture and secure access; and
- Toronto Courthouse – upgraded remote witness room, state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, acoustic treatment to the walls and secure access.
Taylor Martin said that the works will also include upgrades of essential safety features, funded from the NSW Government’s $100 million Sustaining Critical Infrastructure Program, announced in the November 2020 budget.
The contract for works at all five courthouses have been awarded to Project Coordination (Australia) Pty Ltd.
The projects will be completed by the end of the year.
Later this year, self-represented defendants will be banned from personally cross examining complainants in domestic violence criminal proceedings and related apprehended domestic violence order proceedings, under new laws passed last November.
As part of the same reforms, complainants in these proceedings also now have a prima facie entitlement to give evidence remotely via AVL and in a closed court.
Image credit: NSW Courts