NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has vowed to end a brutal court process that leaves survivors of child sexual abuse “broken and traumatised”.
Last November, news.com.au launched its exclusive Justice Shouldn’t Hurt campaign, calling for the NSW Government to make it easier for children to give evidence in sexual offence matters.
The campaign was launched by highlighting the harrowing experiences of Albury sisters Pippa and Rose Milthorpe, who were sexually abused as children, only to be further scarred by their courtroom experiences.
Both sisters say that the court process left them “broken and traumatised” to this day – leading them to call for the groundbreaking Child Sexual Offence Evidence program (CSOEP) – which is currently only available in Newcastle and the Downing Centre Sydney – be rolled out statewide to protect other young survivors.
Today, their tireless efforts have paid off, with Mr Perrottet announcing the nation-leading CSEOP will be expanded across the state from July 1, with a $64.3 million investment – regardless of whether or not he wins the upcoming state election on March 25, with polling indicating he could be set to lose to Labor’s Chris Minns.
Rose Milthorpe has fought hard to tell her story. Picture: NewsWire/Monique HarmerPippa Milthorpe has been speaking out to help others. Picture: NewsWire/Monique Harmer
In an exclusive interview with news.com.au, Mr Perrottet said it was clear Pippa and Rose Milthorpe’s experiences with the legal system had seriously impacted them, and that it was critically important to roll out the successful program across NSW – and beyond.
“I received a copy of the report that news.com.au ran, and to hear about the trauma and the distress that Pippa and Rose went through, and the entire family, it clearly had a significant impact on them,” the Premier said.
“As soon as I heard about it, and importantly, that there was already a solution there – that we were actually running these programs in two locations in NSW – [I realised] we’re going to fix this, and we’re going to roll it out so that no other child ever has to go through what Pippa and Rose went through.
“No parent, no child across our state should have to go through that experience, and to hear about the time, the distress, for both of them and their parents – it has to be done much better. It’s hard enough, let alone for the legal system to be making it worse.”
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the Justice Shouldn’t Hurt campaign had “changed lives”. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Brendan Read
Mr Perrottet said news.com.au’s coverage of the Milthorpe family’s story had moved him personally.
“[It was] incredibly emotional – you hear those stories, and the pain, the agony that they’ve gone through, and in my position, I could do something about it,” he said.
“You do reflect on that as a parent and these heinous crimes that occur, and our job, as elected officials, is to make it as easy, as comfortable as possible, and that came through very clearly.
“It was hard to watch and hard to read, and to think that was happening in NSW, but for me, to understand we already had something in place that was not available anywhere else in the country, that we could help and ensure this was rolled out right across the state – that’s exactly what we wanted to do, and that’s why we’ve made the decision to do just that, and that’s why from 1 July this year this program, which will help so many children, so many families who are in this situation, will have access to it.”
Mr Perrottet said the program should be rolled out across the country, and that he would be speaking to state premiers and chief ministers about it this week during national cabinet.
“This program works, it helps our children and it shouldn’t just be for children and families in NSW, it should be for families and children right across the country,” he said.
“I want to see it rolled out across the country … I think that would be a fantastic legacy for Pippa and Rose,” he said, praising their “strong, brave and courageous” position.
“Their advocacy has made change in this state,” Mr Perrottet said.
In 2013, Pippa and Rose reported that they were being abused. Today they have helped change NSW forever. Picture: Copyright news.com.au
“On behalf of everyone across NSW, I want to thank both Pippa and Rose for what they have achieved today, because but for them telling their story, I would never have known. If I hadn’t read it, seen it, then I wouldn’t have known that we need to make this change.
“This change is occurring because of their courage and bravery.”
Mr Perrottet acknowledged that the six years it had taken for the successful pilot program to be rolled out statewide was “too long”, but said he was grateful for the opportunity to ensure that “no other child in NSW goes through the same horrific experience that the Millthorpes had to”.
He added that the government would continue to evaluate and improve the program once it was expanded, but said it would be available for “all young children” in similar situations to the Milthorpes.
“This is the start, because I think as we go down this journey, we will learn more, we will hear from advocates, we will hear from young children and parents who go through this program, and they will give us advice in terms of what’s gone well and what could be improved, but you don’t know that until you’ve actually got it in place,” he said.
Mr Perrottet said there was no doubt that the Justice Shouldn’t Hurt campaign had “changed lives” and had proved how important it was to raise awareness of the issues that matter.
“Hopefully this is something that leads to a national change, and I do believe that. I think today is a start, it’s not the end,” he said.
Mr Perrottet thanked news.com.au for running the campaign and for members of the public for supporting it, and said he wanted to express his “deep thanks and gratitude” for Pippa and Rose Milthorpe.
“They should be very proud of what they’ve done,” he said.
Under the CSOEP program, which was first launched as a pilot at Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court and Newcastle District Court in 2016, young people are able to prerecord their evidence and are provided with intermediaries to assist them during police interviews and hearings, which lessens the stress of facing an alleged attacker in court and helps reduce the length of proceedings.
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The NSW Government invested $28 million in 2018 to make the program permanent at the pilot locations following an independent assessment by the University of NSW that found that the CSOEP received very strong support from participants, reduced stress for children and resulted in a better quality of evidence from child witnesses.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2017 also made seven recommendations about the importance of prerecording witness evidence and using intermediaries in child sexual offence prosecutions.
Read related topics:Justice Shouldn't Hurt