Newhaven students pass the Bill

Newhaven College students attended the Victorian Youth Parliament earlier this month and successfully tabled their Bill, ‘Court Dogs for Vulnerable Witnesses’. From left to right: Matisse Cousins, Angie Christos, Caitlin Hunt, Angus Smith, Simon Hunt and Sarah Larkin.

By Lyreca Corloncito

Students from Newhaven College have successfully passed their ‘Court Dogs for Vulnerable Witnesses’ Bill at the YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament held over July 1, 2 and 4.

Matisse Cousins, Angie Christos, Caitlin Hunt, Angus Smith, Simon Hunt and Sarah Larkin made up the team who argued for a fairer environment for those in the court system.

Similar to therapy dogs, court dogs are trained to provide comfort to victims of trauma. Professionally trained dogs are placed into the areas of the legal justice system to assist those when testifying in court.

“For example, if someone is sad and crying, the dogs will put their head on the person’s lap to calm them,” said Sarah Larkin.

The Newhaven students believe their Bill will shorten the length of court trials and provide a more comfortable experience for vulnerable witnesses.

“Victims who report their sexual assault are subject to long, invasive and uncomfortable processes that can drag on for years, with victims having to relive their trauma again and again in the court room”, said Matisse Cousins.

The Bill was unanimously passed on July 1 and will now be given to the relevant minister for consideration.

Since 1987, more than 30 Youth Parliament Bills have gone on to become Victorian legislation.

This article originally appeared on the Phillip Island & San Remo Newspaper (PISRA), July 24, 2019.

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