Open Letter: Call for a specialist sexual offences court in the ACT

On 21st August 2023, I alongside a host of ACT organisations including, the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, Domestic Violence Crisis Service, YWCA, Meridian ACT, A Gender Agenda, Toora Women Inc., Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body and Women with Disabilities ACT, handed over an open letter to the Chief Minister, Attorney General, and Deputy Chief Minister urging them to explore the establishment of a specialist sexual offences court in the ACT.

I believe here in the ACT we have the opportunity to be nation-leading in how our justice system addresses sexual offences. The status quo is not sufficient. There is increasing international evidence highlighting the benefits of a specialist, trauma-informed, court in progressing justice.

The latest statistics from the ACT show that there were over 500 reports of sexual offences to the police in the 2021-2022 reporting period. Very few of those cases ever progress to the courts. Those cases in the ACT that did progress to court, saw a 7% conviction rate.

The open letter recognises the diversity in experience of survivors of sexual assault and recognises sectors of the community for example Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women with a disability and gender diverse people from the LGBTQIA+ community that experience substantially higher rates of assault, to be included in any process of consultation, design, implementation, and evaluation of a specialised court in the ACT, in line with community expectations. 

It was incredibly important to get this letter right, I undertook a significant and public process to ensure that it was passed in the best form possible.