The Crimes Legislation Further Amendment Bill 2016, currently before the Victorian Parliament, will amend the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic) to give the court greater flexibility in how expert evidence is heard.
It follows a successful trial of consecutive and concurrent evidence in the County Court. The trial was implemented in consultation with the Forensic Evidence Working Group.
With the consent of the parties, the new procedure will allow the defence expert to be called immediately after the prosecution’s expert.
It will also allow the two witnesses to be called at the same time, which is sometimes called ‘hot tubbing’. The witnesses give their evidence concurrently, in a panel format.
Under the existing law, prosecution experts are called during the prosecution case, but defence experts testifying about the same issues are not called until the defence case — which might be hours or even days later.
Attorney-General Martin Pakula says the change will improve juries’ ability to understand complex, technical evidence.
‘Expert evidence can be technical, time-consuming and complicated,’ he said. ‘We’re making it easier for juries to consider the evidence put to them by letting it be heard consecutively or at the same time.’
This reform brings criminal trials into line with procedures that have been available in civil matters since 2012.
If passed, the new process will be implemented by 1 April 2017.
ROBERT CORR is a Legal Studies teacher at the
Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School.