An evaluation of the Australian Capital Territory Sexual Assault Reform Program (SARP): Final Report

Anderson, Jessica, Richards, Kelly, & Willis, Katie (2012) An evaluation of the Australian Capital Territory Sexual Assault Reform Program (SARP): Final Report. Technical and background paper series, No 51. Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, ACT.

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Abstract

In 2005 the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) produced a report, Responding to sexual assault: The challenge of change (DPP & AFP 2005), which made 105 recommendations for reforming the way sexual offence cases are handled by the ACT’s criminal justice system. The Sexual Assault Reform Program (SARP) is one key initiative developed in response to these recommendations. Managed by the ACT Justice and Community Safety Directorate (JACS), SARP’s main objective is to improve aspects of the criminal justice system relating to:

processes and support for victims of sexual offences as they progress through the system;
attrition in sexual offence matters in the criminal justice system; and
coordination and collaboration among the agencies involved.

In November 2007 the ACT Attorney-General announced $4 million of funding for several SARP reforms. This funding provided for additional victim support staff; a dedicated additional police officer, prosecutor and legal policy officer; and an upgrade of equipment for the Supreme Court and Magistrates Court, including improvements in technology to assist witnesses in giving evidence, and the establishment of an off-site facility to allow witnesses to give evidence from a location outside of the court.

In addition, the reform agenda included a number of legislative amendments that changed how evidence can be given by victims of sexual and family violence offences, children and other vulnerable witnesses. The primary objectives of these legislative changes are to provide an unintimidating, safe environment for vulnerable witnesses (including sexual offence complainants) to give evidence and to obtain prompt statements from witnesses to improve the quality of evidence captured (DPP 2009: 13). The current evaluation

The funding for SARP reforms also provided for a preliminary evaluation of the reforms; this report outlines findings from the evaluation. The evaluation sought to address whether the program has met its key objectives: better support for victims, lower attrition rates and improved coordination and collaboration among agencies involved in administering SARP.

The evaluation was conducted in two stages and involved a mixed-methods approach. During stage 1 key indicators for the evaluation were developed with stakeholders. During stage 2 quantitative data were collected by stakeholders and provided to the AIC for analysis. Qualitative interviews were also conducted with service delivery providers, and with a small number (n=5) of victim/survivors of sexual offences whose cases had recently been resolved in the ACT criminal justice system.

The current evaluation is preliminary in nature. As the SARP reforms will take time to become entrenched within the ACT’s criminal justice system, some of the impacts of the reforms may not yet be evident. Nonetheless, this evaluation provides an insight into how well the SARP reforms have been implemented to date, as well as key areas that could be addressed in the future. Key findings from the preliminary evaluation are outlined briefly below.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 59174
Item Type: Report
Refereed: No
ISBN: 978192009142
ISSN: 1836-2052
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Justice
Deposited On: 17 Apr 2013 05:30
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2013 00:08

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