Policies relating to victims in court

  • Provisions to protect women and girls in the courtroom setting should be included in legislation. Many countries and courts have established protocols to lessen the burden on victims of violence when in court and to keep them safe from perpetrators. These measures include limiting the time victims need to be in court, limiting time in proximity to or in the presence of images of a perpetrator, providing anonymity, encouraging the defense and prosecution to work together to reduce unnecessary questioning of witnesses, providing counseling for victims whenever necessary during proceedings, and etc. See: Best Practice Manual for the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Violence Crimes in Situations of Armed Conflict (ICTR 2008).
  • UNODC’s Model Legislation on Trafficking, for example, contains several provisions aiming to protect victims participating in court proceedings. Article 23 states:

1. A judge may order on application, or where the judge determines it is necessary in the interest of justice, and without prejudice to the rights of the accused, that: (a) Court proceedings be conducted in camera, ie. away from the presence of media and public;

(b) Records of the court proceedings be sealed;

(c) Evidence of a victim or a witness be heard through a video link [or the use of other communications technology] [behind a screen] or similar adequate means out of view of the accused; and/or

2. The judge shall restrict questions asked to the victim or witness, in particular, but not limited to, questions related to the personal history, previous sexual behaviour, the alleged character or the current or previous occupation of the victim.

  • Article 24 of the model law allows for victim impact statements, Article 25 provides for security of personal data about victims and confidentiality of communications between victims and those involved in the court system, and Article 26 allows for victim relocation. See: UNODC, Model Law against Trafficking in Persons.
  • In Austria, victims are protected under the criminal procedure code, which allows judges to limit participation of some parties during a proceeding depending on the age or mental health of a victim. The law also allows for use of technology to minimize the impact of questioning on victims as well as the appointment of a special expert to conduct the questioning. See: Amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code 2006, UN Secretary-General’s database on violence.
  • In the Republic of Korea, the Act on Punishment of Sexual Crimes and Protection of Victims and its accompanying implementation guide specify that victim statements may be submitted in court via video and that when interrogation of a victim is necessary, it should be done by video relay so as to enable the victim to be questioned in a safe, private environment. See: Act on Punishment of Sexual Crimes and Protection of Victims, UN Secretary General’s database on violence against women.
  • In Switzerland, under the Law On Assistance for Victims of Crime, victims of sexual violence can request to work with and be heard by an official of the same gender in all stages of the proceedings.