Victorian Bills Explanatory Memoranda

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                       Victims' Charter Bill

                          Introduction Print


The purpose of this Bill is to establish a framework that recognises principles
governing the response to victims of crime by the criminal justice system.
The principles contained in this Bill are drawn from the Declaration of Basic
Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power adopted by
the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1985.
Part 1 of the Bill sets out the purposes and objects of the Bill and contains
definitions of terms used in the Bill. It provides for a commencement date of
1 November 2006.
Part 2 of the Bill sets out the Charter principles governing responses to
victims by investigatory, prosecuting and victims' services agencies.
These principles are contained in clauses 6 to 17. For the purposes of
clauses 6 and 7 the obligations on agencies extend to all persons adversely
affected by crime (which includes victims, their family and witnesses).
The provisions in clauses 8 to 17 set out obligations on specified agencies
towards the victim or his or her nominated representative.
Part 3 of the Bill contains provisions relating to the implementation of the
Charter principles. It provides that persons adversely affected by crime are to
be informed about available complaint mechanisms and requires the
Secretary to the Department of Justice to monitor implementation of the Bill
and the Attorney-General to report annually on the operation of the Bill.
The provisions of the Bill do not create any legally enforceable rights or
affect the interpretation of any law in force in Victoria, but this does not
prevent possible disciplinary proceedings against relevant officials.

                                 Clause Notes

                        PART 1--PRELIMINARY
Clause 1    sets out the purposes of the Bill.

Clause 2    provides that the Bill will commence on 1 November 2006.

551426                                           BILL LA INTRODUCTION 13/6/2006



Clause 3 defines the meaning of certain terms used in the Bill. Clause 4 sets out the objects of the Bill, which include recognising the broad impact of crime and acknowledging that all persons adversely affected by crime, regardless of whether they report the offence, should be treated with respect by all investigatory, prosecuting and victims' services agencies and be offered appropriate information. Clause 5 provides that a victim may nominate a representative to receive information in accordance with the Charter principles on his or her behalf, and if there is more than one family member of a victim, that family may nominate one or more members of the family to be the representative of the family for the purposes of the Bill. Clause 6 provides that all persons adversely affected by crime (which includes victims and their family and witnesses to a crime) are to be treated with courtesy, respect and dignity by investigatory, prosecuting and victims' services agencies, taking into account particular differences and needs such as race or indigenous background, sex or gender identity, cultural or linguistic diversity, sexual orientation, disability, religion and age. Clause 7 provides that investigatory, prosecuting and victims' services agencies are to provide clear, timely and consistent information about relevant services and entitlements to persons adversely affected by crime and if appropriate, referral to relevant support services. Clause 8 provides that an investigatory agency is to inform a victim, at reasonable intervals, about the progress of an investigation into a criminal offence unless such disclosure may jeopardise an investigation or the victim requests not to be provided with that information. Clause 9 provides that a prosecuting agency is to provide a victim, as soon as reasonably practicable, with information about any charges filed against the accused person; if no charge is filed, the reasons why; if charges are filed, any decision to substantially modify or drop the charge; details about how to find out the date, time and place of the hearing of charges against the accused; the outcome of the criminal proceeding including any sentence; and if an appeal is instituted, details and the result of the appeal. 2



Clause 10 sub-clause (1) provides that a prosecuting agency, on request by a victim, is to ensure that the victim is informed of the outcome of any application for bail by an accused person and, if bail is granted, any special conditions imposed on the accused that are intended to protect the victim or family members of the victim. Sub-clause (2) provides that, consistent with the Bail Act 1977, the safety or welfare of the victim or their family members may be taken into account by the court in certain circumstances when determining a bail application. Clause 11 provides that a prosecuting agency is to ensure that a victim is informed about the court process and, if appearing as a witness for the prosecution, about the trial process and their role as a witness. Clause 12 provides that, as far as is reasonably practicable, a prosecuting agency and the courts should, during the course of a court proceeding and within a court building, protect a victim from intimidation by, and minimise unnecessary contact with, the accused person, defence witnesses, family members and supporters of the accused person. Clause 13 sub-clause (1) sets out that a victim may make a victim impact statement to the court sentencing the person found guilty of the offence in accordance with the provisions of the Sentencing Act 1991. Sub-clause (2) requires that a prosecuting agency refer a victim to an appropriate victims' services agency for assistance in preparing a victim impact statement if the victim expresses a wish to make a statement. Clause 14 provides that a victim's personal information is not to be disclosed by any person except in accordance with the Information Privacy Act 2000. The note to this clause explains that certain information under that Act may be disclosed by a judge or magistrate or court staff in the exercise of their functions. Clause 15 provides for any property of the victim in possession of an investigatory or prosecuting agency for the purpose of the investigation or prosecution of the offence, to be handled and stored in a respectful and secure manner and, if possible and in consultation with the victim, to be returned as soon as reasonably practicable. 3



Clause 16 sets out that a victim may apply to a court for compensation from the person found guilty of the criminal offence that gave rise to the injury (in accordance with the provisions of the Sentencing Act 1991) and may apply to the State for compensation and financial assistance in accordance with the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996. Clause 17 sets out that a victim of a criminal act of violence may apply for inclusion on the victims register in accordance with the Corrections Act 1986 to receive certain information concerning the offender, such as length of sentence, likely date of release and the making of an extended supervision order. It also provides that a victim on the register may make a submission to the Adult Parole Board, if it is considering the release of an offender on parole, about the effect of the potential release on the victim, and may make a submission for consideration by the Board when determining any instructions or directions the Board may give an offender subject to an extended supervision order under the Serious Sex Offenders Monitoring Act 2005. Information in relation to extended supervision orders and sub- clause (4) relate to amendments being made by the Corrections and Other Justice Legislation (Amendment) Bill. Clause 18 sub-clause (1) provides that if an investigatory, prosecuting or victims' services agency is aware, or should reasonably be aware, that a person is a victim, the agency must have regard to the Charter principles when dealing with that person. Sub-clause (2) provides that persons or bodies responsible for the development of criminal law policy and victims' services policy and the administration of criminal justice and victims' services must, where relevant, have regard to the Charter principles. Clause 19 provides that if a person adversely affected by crime believes that an investigatory, prosecuting or victims' services agency has not upheld the Charter principles, they are to be informed by that agency about the processes available for making a complaint. Clause 20 requires the Secretary to the Department of Justice to develop policies and plans to promote the Charter principles; monitor, evaluate and review the operation of the Bill; ensure appropriate complaint mechanisms are in place; and do anything else appropriate for the purposes of the Bill. 4



Clause 21 provides that the Attorney-General must include each year in the report of operations of the Department of Justice information on the steps taken to promote the Charter principles and a report on the operation of this Bill. Clause 22 sub-clause (1) provides that this Bill does not create any legal rights or give rise to any civil cause of action, or affect the interpretation of any law in force in Victoria or affect the validity, or provide grounds for review, of any judicial or administrative act or omission. Sub-clause (2) provides that sub-clause (1) does not prevent a contravention of this Bill from being the subject of disciplinary proceedings against a relevant official. Clause 23 gives a general regulation-making power. 5




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