This week, two girls gave depositions over the internet from a spot outside the Vancouver courthouse where the man accused of assaulting them is on trial.
The accused would often have been sat nearby in the prisoner’s dock as the girls testified in the witness box of the courtroom.
The testimonial accommodation, however, was authorized by the trial judge, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Wendy Baker. It is part of a novel strategy designed to give child witnesses a safer and more comfortable setting in which to testify without having to directly confront the accused.
The girls testified in a room that was particularly set up at The Treehouse Child and Youth Advocacy Center. Their identities cannot be revealed due to a publication prohibition imposed at the trial at the Vancouver Law Courts.
The girls provided testimony during Da Wei Chen’s trial. Da Wei Chen has pled not guilty to two charges of interfering with a minor’s sexual activity.
Alan Ip, the crown attorney, and Jacqueline Madden believe that Chen provided the victims with narcotics and alcohol before exploiting them sexually.
One of the complainants, now 16 years old, claims that Chen molested her in a Vancouver hotel room in 2021 when she was 14 years old. She had been doing drugs and drinking with Chen before the alleged event.
Chen allegedly sexually assaulted the other victim, who was 12 at the time and is now 14 years old, at a different location in Vancouver.
The first remote evidence from a child in a Vancouver trial took place in December, and this is the second time it has occurred in the center’s room. It was the third time in the province in the previous year that such a strategy had been employed. Other child and youth advocacy organizations in British Columbia can now offer remote testimony as well.
According to Zille, the remote testimony is an expansion of the centres’ primary purpose, which is to offer a place where accused child abuse victims can be taken and supported after the initial allegations of abuse are made.