The Victorian Law Reform Commission has published a report recommending that the rights of victims of crime should be strengthened. The report, The Role of Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process, was tabled in Parliament today (22 November).
The report recommends amending Victoria’s Human Rights Charter to give victims the right to be acknowledged, treated with respect, and protected from unnecessary trauma during the criminal trial process. If enacted, Victoria would be the first state in Australia to do this. The Victims Charter would also be amended to recognise that victims have an inherent interest in the criminal trial process.
The report states that victims of crime should be defined as participants in the trial process, though they should not be able to call witnesses or cross-examine the defendant.
In total, the report contains 51 recommendations to give victims adequate information and support, more opportunities to participate, and protection from trauma and intimidation during the trial.
Sentence levels and outcomes were not referred to the Commission for review.
During the inquiry, which took almost two years, the Commission spoke to many victims and their families, the police, lawyers and judges, victims support agencies and experts in the field of victims’ rights. The report calls for cultural change within the criminal justice system to ensure victims are properly acknowledged and respected.
Download the victims of crime report.
Quotes for attribution to the Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, the Hon. Philip Cummins AM:
“There have been changes to the law, such as the introduction of victim impact statements, but in reality victims often feel that they are not respected, and often are traumatised all over again.”
“Courts need to change. The distress of a trial cannot be completely eliminated but there are specific steps we should take to reduce trauma.”
On cross examination
"The defence has the right to ask questions of the victim to test their evidence. What defence counsel must not do is humiliate, bully or demean the witness, and if they do the judge should step in and stop them."
On access to information
"Victims should be told what is happening at all stages - what the charges are, the time and place of the trial, what the victim is expected to do and what their rights are. Victims told us that knowledge is empowering."
"We need to make it easier for victims to receive adequate, realistic compensation, and offenders should take some responsibility rather than leaving it to the state."
On fair trials
"None of this alters the right of the accused to a fair trial. You can treat the victim with respect, and still make sure that the trial is fair."
For more information please contact:
Nick Gadd, Communications Manager, Tel: 03 8608 7824 Mob: 0425 862 119.