Belgium to consider making video recordings mandatory for painful court testimony

Belgium to consider making video recordings mandatory for painful court testimony
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A measure that would make audiovisual recordings of witness testimony compulsory when it involves the discussion of painful facts, such as rape or sexual assault, has been put forth by the Flemish party Open VLD.

The use of audiovisual recordings when it comes to such testimony is intended to prevent victims from having to retell the story of their traumatic experience over and over again during court proceedings.

This is already in practice for minors, but the proposed measure would extend the requirement to adults, as well.

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The audiovisual questioning of child victims or witnesses of certain facts was included as a principle in the Belgian Code of Criminal Procedure following recommendations made by the Special Sexual Abuse Commission.

MP Katja Gabriëls called the move “a good step, because it can be very traumatizing to have to repeat a story or testimony about a fact several times.”

Gabriëls says that adults have frequently asked to be able to give similar testimony via a videotaped recording, and that the measure is intended to meet that demand.

Currently in the case of adults, such recordings only take place when the public prosecutor or investigating judge orders it.

“In order to better protect adults against the traumatizing effects of repeated interrogation, this bill also wants to generalize admission for them in cases of very sensitive facts,” says Gabriëls.

The bill is based on the principle that an audiovisual recording must take place, but the attorney or the investigating judge can decide otherwise. When they do this, it will have to be with a reasoned decision.

“There is no choice in principle for all facts, but rather only for certain very sensitive facts,” Gabriëls says, explaining that doing so for every possible criminal offense wouldn’t be a logical use of resources.

Helen Lyons

The Brussels Times

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