Published: September 3, 2019


A new study of domestic violence evidence reforms in New South Wales, which were the first in Australia to allow pre-recorded victim statements, finds that the presence of such statements increases the overall probability of a conviction.

The Life Course Centre Working Paper is believed to be the first study of its kind to provide empirical evidence establishing a causal link between pre-recorded evidence and court outcomes. The paper is authored by Steve Yeong, a Life Course Centre PhD student at the University of Sydney School of Economics, and Suzanne Poynton, the Acting Director at the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. Mr Yeong also works a Principal Program Evaluator at the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. Their study analyses the impact of the Domestic Violence Evidence-in-Chief (DVEC) reforms, which came into effect in NSW on 1 June 2015, allowing victims of Domestic Violence (DV) to provide testimony through the use of a pre-recorded video statement with police.

Key findings from the study include:

  • the presence of a DVEC statement raises the overall probability of a conviction by 6 percentage points (an increase from about 76% to 82%)
  • when the analysis is restricted to the one in four DV cases that proceed to a defended hearing, the presence of a DVEC statement raises the probability of a conviction by about 17 percentage points (an increase from about 70% to 87%)
  • no evidence to indicate that the presence of a DVEC statement has any impact on the probability of a guilty plea.

This study follows-up a previous analysis of the NSW DVEC reforms conducted by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (Yeong & Poynton, 2017). While this initial short-term evaluation found limited evidence suggesting that the presence of a DVEC statement may raise the probability of a conviction, it also suggested that the NSW justice system may require additional time to adopt and adjust to the DVEC reforms. The difference between the results presented in this paper and the prior work highlights the need for both researchers and policymakers to allow for sufficient implementation and follow-up time before deciding whether or not a policy was effective in achieving its objectives, the paper concludes.

You can read the full Working Paper here.