Domestic violence: convictions more likely with pre-recorded evidence

18 August 2023
NSW evidence reforms are working, first statistical analysis finds
The first quantitative analysis of NSW evidence reforms shows that a victim-centred approach to domestic violence prosecutions is yielding results.

A new University of Sydney study reveals a 3.4 percentage point increase in the conviction rate in domestic violence cases that use pre-recorded evidence.

Implemented in 2015, the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Domestic Violence Complainants) Act I allows domestic violence victims to present their evidence via a pre‐recorded video statement with police, instead of live in court. The purpose of the law is to encourage victims to give evidence, which in turn could increase prosecution and conviction rates.

Compared to other violent crimes, domestic violence cases tend to have low conviction rates. Between 2015 and 2018, for example, domestic violence matters only had a 77 percent conviction rate, while non-domestic violence matters had a 92 percent conviction rate.

The new research demonstrates that the 3.4 percentage point increase in the conviction rate for matters with pre-recorded evidence occurs in three ways: first, there is a higher likelihood of conviction among cases that go to a defended hearing (5.6 percentage point increase); there are more guilty pleas (2.4 percentage point increase); and the prosecution is 2.4 percentage points less likely to withdraw their case.

Our analysis is the first to quantitatively link the use of pre-recorded evidence with conviction rates in Australia.
Steve Yeong, lead author and PhD candidate, School of Economics

“I hope the NSW Police Force continues to implement approaches that take victims’ experiences into account,” said Mr Yeong, from the University’s School of Economics.

Though the study’s findings were associative, not causal, other, qualitative studies have been done that mirror them.

Along with colleague Suzanne Poynton, Director, Research and Evaluation at NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Mr Yeong derived the results using three datasets: the 2011 ABS census; the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research's Reoffending Database; and the NSW Police Force's Computerised Operational Policing System. The researchers examined cases involving at least one domestic assault charge laid between 1 January 2012 and 30 June 2018, almost a quarter of which involved pre-recorded evidence by the victim.

The Australian Economic Review has published their results.

In Australia, it is estimated that close to one in four women has experienced at least one instance of domestic violence since the age of 15 (ABS 2017). The national cost of domestic violence over the 2015-16 financial year was estimated at $22 billion (KPMG 2016). To put this figure in context, the size of the Australian Government budget deficit over the same period was $39.6 billion (Commonwealth Treasury 2016).

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