Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences: Report (html)



A person charged with a criminal offence or offences. Also known informally as the defendant in criminal trials.

Balance of probabilities

The standard of proof in civil proceedings. Often described as ‘more likely than not’ or ‘more probable than not’. A lesser standard than ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

Beyond reasonable doubt

The standard of proof in criminal proceedings. A higher standard than the ‘balance of probabilities’.

Brief of evidence

The material relied on by the prosecution in a criminal case.


A statement containing details of a crime an accused is alleged to have committed.


A person under the age of 18 years. See young person.

Child Protection

The Victorian Child Protection Service. Provides services to children, young people and their families. Functions include investigating matters where a child is at risk of significant harm and making applications for protection orders if a child’s safety cannot be ensured within the family.

Child sexual abuse

Sexual offences committed against children.

Civil proceeding

A case under civil (non-criminal) law, where one person or organisation sues another for infringing their legal rights.


Money paid to compensate people for injuries caused by crimes and other harms. In this report, ‘compensation’ is generally used when the person responsible for the injuries is the one who pays the money. See financial assistance.


A term used in legislation to describe in criminal cases the person against whom a sexual offence is alleged to have been committed. Also refers to the victim/victim survivor.

County Court

The County Court sits above the Magistrates’ Court and below the Supreme Court in the Victorian court hierarchy. In its criminal jurisdiction it hears indictable criminal cases, except for the most serious offences. Criminal trials in this court are usually heard by a judge and jury.

Criminal justice system

The system that responds to criminal behaviour and reports of criminal behaviour. It includes the police, prosecuting agencies, the courts, defence lawyers and correctional services.

Criminal proceeding

A case against a person accused of a criminal offence, or a part of the case, including preliminary hearings and procedures.


A term used to describe the accused person’s legal team and how they defend the charges.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)

An independent statutory appointee and the head of Victoria’s public prosecutions service. They institute, prepare and conduct serious criminal matters in the higher courts.

Family violence

Defined in the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) to include a wide range of abusive, threatening and coercive behaviours by someone towards a family member, or acts that cause a child to be exposed to such behaviours.

Financial assistance

Money paid by the state to people who have been injured as a result of a crime.

Higher courts

In Victoria, the County Court and the Supreme Court.

Indictable offence

A serious crime that is usually tried in a higher court before a judge and jury.


A formal written accusation charging a person with an indictable offence that is to be tried in a higher court.


The person who commences a criminal proceeding in the Magistrates’ Court. Often a member of Victoria Police but sometimes a representative from another investigating agency.

Jury directions

Instructions provided by the judge to the jury. They guide the conduct of jurors and explain what jurors need to consider in deciding the case.

Justice system

The system that responds to criminal behaviour and other harms, including breaches of civil law (see civil proceeding). It includes the criminal and civil courts, and the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal. Sometimes in this report, we use justice system as shorthand for criminal justice system. Where this is the case, the context makes it clear that we are discussing the criminal justice system.


A person who presides over a case in the Magistrates’ Court or in the Children’s Court, or who decides applications for assistance in the Victims of Crimes Assistance Tribunal.

Magistrates’ Court

A lower court that hears less serious matters without a jury. It is responsible for hearing and determining summary offences and some indictable offences that can be tried summarily.


A person who has been found or has pleaded guilty to a criminal offence. See person responsible for sexual violence.

Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) or prosecuting agency

The independent statutory authority that institutes, prepares and conducts criminal prosecutions on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions.


A binding direction by a court or tribunal in a legal proceeding.


The prosecution and the accused in a criminal proceeding; the plaintiff and the defendant in a civil proceeding.

Person with a cognitive impairment

The Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic) defines ‘cognitive impairment’ to include ‘impairment because of mental illness, intellectual disability, dementia or brain injury’. In this report, the term ‘person with a cognitive impairment’ is used when we discuss support programs authorised by the Act and other similar initiatives. More generally, the term ‘person with a cognitive disability’ is used.

Person who has committed a sexual offence

A person who has accepted responsibility for or been convicted of a sexual offence. The phrase ‘a person convicted of a sexual offence’ is also used.

Person responsible for sexual violence

In this report, this phrase is used to refer to a person who has accepted responsibility for sexual violence in a restorative justice process. It does not necessarily imply an acknowledgment of criminal guilt.


When the accused person tells the court whether they are guilty or not guilty of the charge.

Primary prevention

Prevention of crime that focuses on the root causes of offending, such as the social or economic conditions that make offending more likely.


The lawyers, individual (for example, the Director of Public Prosecutions) or statutory authority (for example, the Office of Public Prosecutions) conducting a criminal case before the court on behalf of the investigating agency. In the Magistrates’ Court, the investigating agency, such as Victoria Police, may itself conduct a criminal case. A ‘prosecution’ may also refer to the case against a person accused of a criminal offence.

Restorative justice

A justice process that brings together the people involved in or affected by a crime to repair its harms. The format may vary. For example, it may involve group conferences or exchanges of messages.


The penalty given to an offender by a court.

Sentencing hearing

The hearing in which the prosecution and defence present information which they want the court to take into account when deciding the sentence in the case, and where the victim survivor can give a victim impact statement. At the end of the hearing, the judge summarises the case, imposes a sentence and explains the reasons for giving the sentence.

Sexual harassment

Unwelcome sexual behaviour that is offensive, humiliating or intimidating. It is not criminal, but is banned by state and federal laws in many public settings, including workplaces, schools, tertiary education, clubs, and in the provision of goods and services.

Sexual offence

A sexual offence is sexual violence that is against the law. Specific sexual offences in Victorian law include ‘rape’ and ‘sexual assault’. See sexual violence.

Sexual violence

Sexual activity that happens without consent. It includes violence that is not a sexual offence and violence that is not physical, such as sexual harassment. In this report, ‘sexual assault’ is used instead when it is the term used in the context (such as when referring to sexual assault services).

Standard of proof

The level of certainty and the degree of evidence necessary to establish that a criminal or civil case has been proved.

Summary offence

A criminal offence that may be dealt with ‘summarily’ by a magistrate. Less serious than an indictable offence.

Supreme Court

The highest court in Victoria that deals with the most serious criminal offences. The Court of Appeal is a division of the Supreme Court and it hears criminal appeals from the Supreme Court or County Court.

Technology-facilitated sexual violence

Sexual violence that makes use of technology. For example, the unlawful sharing of sexually explicit images (‘image-based sexual abuse’).

Victim/victim survivor

In criminal proceedings, a victim is a person who has suffered harm as a result of the action of an offender. In this report, the term applies to a person alleged by the prosecution to be a victim before the accused has been found guilty, as well as a person who has suffered due to an offence for the which the offender has been found guilty.

Victim survivor is sometimes used instead of victim, in the circumstances set out above. Victim survivor may also refer to a person who has experienced sexual violence that was not reported or prosecuted or did not result in a criminal conviction.

Victim impact statement

A statement in which a victim can tell the court how the crime affected them. The statement is provided to the court after the offender has been found guilty.

Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT)

A body established by legislation to hear and determine applications for financial assistance made by victims of violent crime committed in Victoria.


A person who gives evidence in a case.

Young person/young people

In this report, ‘young person’ may be used to refer to people between 12-24 years of age. In sections of the report where we are only referring to young people either under or over 18 years of age, we make this clear in the discussion.

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