Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process

Victims of crime have a great deal at stake in the criminal trial process, and perhaps they have not received the support their special interests deserve. In recent years, their treatment by the criminal justice system has come under community scrutiny, with calls to better acknowledge, respect, support and protect them becoming louder and more urgent.

In October 2014, the Attorney-General asked the Commission to report and review on the role of victims in the criminal trial process. In this review, the Commission considered what role the victim ought to play in trials and what changes to the law and court proceedings might better accommodate their rights, expectations and sensitivities.

To clarify the problem, the Commission published four information papers on relevant aspects of the inquiry: History, Concepts and Theory; Who are the Victims of Crime and What are their Criminal Justice Needs and Experiences?; The International Criminal Court: A Case Study of Victim Participation in the Adversarial Trial Process; and Victims' Rights and Human Rights.    

In August 2015, after extensive research and preliminary consultations, the Commission published a consultation paper that described current law and practice, surveyed alternative approaches from other jurisdictions, and listed options for reform. It also posed questions to guide consultations and invited written public submissions.

As well as 43 written submissions, the commission consulted widely with victims and their families, lawyers, judicial officers, academics and key stakeholder groups. It held meetings in regional victoria towns, conducted many individual interviews and organised 17 roundtable discussions. 

The report, delivered on 1 September 2016 and tabled in Parliament on 22 November, made 51 recommendations. 

The report and other documents can be downloaded from the links below. 

Implementation

27 February 2018: Justice Legislation Amendment (Victims) Act 2018 introduces a role for intermediaries in court process (Recommendation 30 and 31).

25 September 2018: Justice Legislation Miscellaneous Amendment Actl 2018 received royal assent. The Justice Legislation Miscellaneous Amendment Act 2018 ensures that courts disallow improper questions, such as those that are misleading or confusing, harassing, intimidating, humiliating or repetitive (Recommendation 18).

11 September 2018: Victims and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2018 received royal assent. Victims and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2018 implements a number of recommendations made by the Commission in its report on Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process, including:

  • implementing Recommendation 1, inserting a paragraph into the Victims' Charter Act 2006 to recognise that a victim of crime has an inherent interest in the response by the criminal justice system to that crime 
  • requiring investigatory agencies, prosecuting agencies and victims' services agencies to respect the rights and entitlements of victims as participants in proceedings; in particular the needs of victims in rural and regional locations (Recommendations 15 and 16)
  • requiring the Department of Public Prosecutions to take all reasonable steps to advise a victim of the details of criminal proceedings and the progress of a prosecution (Recommendation 20); and to seek a victim's views regarding modifying charges, discontinuing a prosecution, or an appeal (Recommendation 24); and to provide reasons for decisions to a victim (Recommendation 9)
  • requiring the prosecuting agency to provide victims with information about the contents of a victim impact statement that may be ruled inadmissible (Recommendation 27)
  • setting up a complaints system for victims, relating to investigatory agency, prosecuting agency and victims' services agencies (Recommendation 7(a)
  • empowering the Victims of Crime Commissioner to investigate complaints from victims (Recommendation 8).

October 2018: Sentencing Advisory Council released the Restitution and Compensation Orders Report (Recommendation 49)

1 August 2019: Judicial College of Victoria publishes Victims of Crime in the Courtroom: A Guide for Judicial Officers

Timeline

Current: Table in parliament

Full timeline:

Reference
Consultation
Submissions
Final report
Tabled in parliament
View full timeline

Project Publications

Victims of Crime: Recommendations

  Chapter 3. The victim as a participant in the criminal trial process Articulating the role in statute 1The objects of the Victims’ Charter Act...

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Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process: Report (pdf and Word)

The Victorian Law Reform Commission’s report on the role of victims of crime in the criminal trial process was tabled in the Victorian Parliament on...

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Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process: Report (html)

The Victorian Law Reform Commission’s report on the role of victims of crime in the criminal trial process was tabled in the Victorian Parliament on...

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Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process: submissions received

The Commission received the following submissions in response to the consultation paper for the victims of crime reference. See the links below to...

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Victims of Crime: Summary of Consultation Paper

This document is a short (14-page) summary of the full consultation paper on the Role of Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process.

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Victims of Crime: Consultation Paper (pdf and Word)

The Victorian Law Reform Commission has published a consultation paper seeking input on its review of the role of victims in the criminal trial...

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Victims of Crime: Consultation Paper (html)

The Victorian Law Reform Commission has published a consultation paper seeking input on its review of the role of victims in the criminal trial...

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Victims of Crime: Information Paper 4: Victims' Rights and Human Rights

This information paper is number four in a series of four that provides background information on the Commission's review of the role of victims of...

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Victims of Crime: Information Paper 3: The International Criminal Court

This information paper is number three in a series of four that provides background information on the Commission's review of the role of victims of...

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Victims of Crime: Information Paper 2: Who Are Victims of Crime?

This is the second information paper in a series of four that provide background information on the Commission's review of the role of victims of...

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Victims of Crime: Information Paper 1: History, Concepts and Theory

This information paper is number one of a series of four that provide background information on the Commission's review of the role of victims of...

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Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process: Terms of Reference

[Referral to the Commission pursuant to section 5(1)(a) of the Victorian Law Reform Commission Act 2000 (Vic) on 27 October 2014.] The Victorian Law...

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