New proposal helps victims of crime

Monday 22 October 2018
Shyla Sivanas

and Gemma Hannah, Graduate

In its first comprehensive review of Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) in 20 years, the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s (Commission) has proposed some significant changes to the current model.

In their view, the existing scheme prioritises procedural process over the needs of victims and does not effectively deliver timely assistance to victims in a way that minimises trauma.

The full report can be accessed here.

New state-funded scheme

To tackle these issues, the Commission recommends that a new state-funded assistance scheme is established, led with guiding legislation by an independent and dedicated decision maker.

Most significantly, the proposed scheme would operate outside the Victorian court system, which removes any need for victims to attend court, be called to give evidence and cross-examined.

This new scheme would see hearings replaced with ‘conferences’, which are more focused on the victim and less adversarial in nature. Under this new scheme, decision makers would be required to make a decision and provide reasons within a limited time.

Increase in maximum lump sum payment and list of criminal offences

The Commission recommends increasing the maximum lump sum of compensation from $10,000 to $25,000. It is proposed that applicants who are the victim of two or more ‘related criminal acts’ would be eligible for up to $25,000.

We support this recommendation as it recognises the cumulative impact of patterns of abuse in circumstances such as family violence.

There is also a proposal to expand the list of criminal offences that allow a victim to apply for assistance to include all sexual offences, certain serious property offences and other offences that occur in the family violence context.

In our view, this recommendation reflects changes to the law and community expectations.

More time to make a claim

Currently, victims have 2 years from the date of the criminal act to make an application. However, there is a number of reasons why victims do not consider making a VOCAT application within 2 years.

It is appropriate that the Commission recommends increasing the time limit to 3 years and to 10 years for victims of domestic violence.

If the victim was under 18 at the time of the crime, they will have 3 years from the time they turn 18. If the applicant was a victim of child abuse, there will be no time limit.

Removal of ‘perpetrator notifications’

It was also proposed that ‘perpetrator notifications’ are removed, prioritising victims’ safety and wellbeing over legal processes.

Adviceline Injury Lawyers has assisted many victims oppose a VOCAT decision to notify the perpetrator of the victim’s claim for assistance.

Most recently, we assisted several young clients abused by a perpetrator make submissions to VOCAT outlining the adverse effects that the notification process would have on their recovery.

The current Government has accepted all of the Commission’s recommendations in principle and indicates that if re-elected, they will work hard to ensure the reforms are brought into effect.

 

If you would like to know more about how these changes may affect your VOCAT claim feel free to call our friendly team on (03) 9321 9988.

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