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​Evaluation of the 2015 Domestic Violence Evidence-in-Chief (DVEC) reforms

Full report: Evaluation of the 2015 Domestic Violence Evidence-in-Chief (DVEC) reforms (pdf, 899Kb)

Appendix (pdf, 406Kb)

Release date: 6.00am 26 October 2017

A new law designed to increase the conviction and guilty plea rate in domestic violence cases has had little if any effect according to a new report released today by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).

The so-called Domestic Violence Evidence in Chief (DVEC) reforms removed the 'hearsay rule of evidence' as it applies to DV complainants in criminal proceedings. The practical effect of the reform is that police can now introduce the recorded video and/or audio statement of a domestic violence complainant as evidence-in-chief in proceedings for DV offences.

It was hoped that this would take some of the burden of giving evidence off the victim while at the same time increasing the quality of the evidence against the alleged offender, thereby increasing both the guilty plea rate and the overall conviction rate.

BOCSAR evaluated the reform in two ways; first by comparing court outcomes for cases with DVEC statements to those without them, and second, by examining the trend in guilty pleas and convictions in each Local Area Command as the DVEC reforms were rolled out.

Depending on the method used, BOCSAR found that the presence of a DVEC statement either had no effect on the probability of a conviction or only increased it by a small amount (viz. about two percentage points).

Having a DVEC statement in a domestic violence case, however, had no effect on the probability of a guilty plea or the speed with which domestic violence cases were finalised for cases finalised on a guilty plea.

Furthermore, BOCSAR found no evidence that guilty pleas and convictions increased in each Local Area Command as the roll-out of the DVEC reforms progressed.

Commenting on the findings, the Executive Director of BOCSAR, Dr Don Weatherburn said that it is important to note that the DVEC reforms were not just designed to increase guilty pleas and convictions: they were also designed to reduce the trauma for complainants  associated with recounting events in front of the offender.

"They may have achieved this objective even if they had no material effect on the DV conviction or plea rates."

 

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn, 8346 1100

Copies of the report: www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au