Giving evidence in court can be a stressful experience and many people feel anxious.

Being in the same room as the accused person can make it difficult to give evidence - sometimes the information in court can be embarrassing or emotional.

Vulnerable witness provisions (VWPs) are special arrangements that can help make the experience less stressful.

Vulnerable witnesses

In South Australia, a vulnerable witness is considered to be someone who is either:

  • under the age of 16
  • has a mental disability
  • the alleged victim of serious offences, including:
    • sexual assaults
    • abduction
    • blackmail
    • stalking
    • attempted murder
  • been subjected to threats, or has reasonable grounds to fear violence or retribution in connection with the proceedings.

VWPs can be arranged for people who are not considered a vulnerable witness, but may feel embarrassed or fearful of giving evidence in court.

If you are not sure whether you are eligible for VWPs, speak with your Witness Assistance Officer or the DPP solicitor involved in your matter.

Witness provisions

The Evidence Act 1929 outlines the types of provisions that are available.

You can request more than one VWP, but the court has the ultimate say on which provisions are approved and allowed.

Using Closed Circuit Television means you can give evidence from a separate room (instead of the court room) and have it transmitted to the court room.

  • Everyone who is in the court can see and hear you on the TV screens in the court room
  • You will be able to see the lawyer asking questions and the judge on screen but you will not be able to see the accused person.

A one way screen is placed between you and the accused person so it blocks your view of the accused when you give evidence.

The accused will still be able to see you.

A court support volunteer is a volunteer can provide you with a supportive physical presence while you give evidence.

They are not allowed to talk or assist in any way, and they must be visible to both the judge and jury while you give evidence.

They cannot be another witness in the case.

A closed court is where the court room will be closed to any member of the public (including the media) while you give evidence.

This is usually granted in circumstances where the evidence you give is particularly sensitive, personal or embarrassing.

A canine court companion is a dog, accredited by Guide Dogs SA/NT, who can accompany you while you give evidence.

The dog sits at your feet.

A human companion will also sit beside you and will look after the dog.

Canine court companions are not available for all matters - they are mostly reserved for when young children give evidence.