Last updated 3 May 2016
Persons who are victims of sexual offences often seek counselling or other assistance as part of their recovery process. Counsellors generally keep notes or records of these counselling sessions. In a number of instances, defence lawyers seek to obtain access to a complainant’s counselling records by way of subpoena with a view to using them as a further source of information upon which to base questions to the complainant at the trial (e.g. in an effort to damage the complainant’s credibility by disclosing evidence of drug taking, mental health issues, inconsistent statements or the quality of the complainant’s memory of the offence). Some states in Australia have introduced legislation to protect the confidentiality of counselling records (no such legislation exists in Queensland), and the admissibility of such records is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Victim impact statements
Under ss 15(1) to 15(9) of the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 2009 (Qld), at the time of sentencing an accused for any sexual offence, the prosecutor may inform the court of the harm that has been caused to a victim of the crime (see also the chapter on Assisting Victims of Crime).
The usual way in which this is done is by the tendering of a Victim Impact Statement (VIS). A VIS is a written statement that is signed and dated, and contains particulars of the harm caused to the victim of the offence. Medical reports, drawings, photographs and other images may be attached to the statement. A VIS may be prepared by the victim or another person (depending on the victim’s age and capacity). It is not mandatory for a victim to prepare a VIS. A lack of a VIS does not lead to the inference that the offence caused little or no harm to the victim.