The Sexual Offences Interactive Legal Education Program (ilep) was a three-tiered pilot program which was open from 20 April to 31 December 2012. This innovative pilot program introduced various new methods of training, including an online cross-examination simulation. The Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) was funded in 2009 by the Legal Services Board to lead and deliver an innovative legal training program. The evaluation of the ilep was funded by the Victorian Law Foundation. Throughout the program there was a significant response from the legal profession which has demonstrated that this type of training is beneficial within the criminal justice system.
The ilep was launched by the Attorney-General Robert Clark on 20 April 2012. The stage one online training module and supplementary manual were widely praised. As workshops were completed in stage two, edited videos were uploaded to the online learning system for practitioners to view, along with key resources such as a jury directions checklist.
Since the launch of ilep, 400 professional users registered for the online training module. The largest number of users came from the Victoria Bar and Victoria Police. Lawyers from stakeholder agencies such as the OPP, Victorian Legal Aid, Law Institute Victoria and Judicial College Victoria also registered.
A series of four interactive and experiential workshops were held, which focused on key advocacy skills in prosecuting and defending sexual assault cases. The series of workshops were held as follows:
10 May – Trials and Appeals
7 June – Dealing with the evidence of adult complainants
14 June – Dealing with the evidence of child complainants
28 June – Conferencing victims and accused.
The workshops were positively received, with waiting lists of 40–50 barristers for each workshop. The workshops were presented by Supreme and County Court Judges, the Deputy Chief Magistrate, Senior Prosecution and Defence Counsel and the Director of Public Prosecutions. The workshops incorporated presentations and skills-based learning combining different types of interaction and feedback from the presenters. Workshop three incorporated a follow-up exercise: an avatar-based, cross-examination simulation.
A review of trial performance focused on how an individual barrister assessed their own performance. This was compared to how the trial judge and an independent peer reviewer assessed their performance in accordance with an agreed set of advocacy competencies, which key ILEP stakeholders developed. The independent peer reviewer observed key parts of the trial via video.
An independent evaluation of the program has shown that the ilep has produced notable improvements in many areas, in particular in participants’ perceived improvements to their confidence in handling sex offence matters, understanding of legislation and procedure, and cross-examination and examination-in-chief. The ilep has also shown promising results for improving participants’ confidence in engaging with victims of sexual assault, and understanding of their needs.
The final evaluation report is now available.