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Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Amendments Seek to Cement Victim RIghts in Law

07 February 2022
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Amendments Seek to Cement Victim RIghts in Law

Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party will move tomorrow to cement new victim rights in the Victims’ Charter Act that were recommended in a 2016 Victorian Law Reform Commission report.

State leader Stuart Grimley (Western Victoria) and Tania Maxwell (Northern Victoria) will propose three amendments to the Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Procedure Disclosure and Other Matters) Bill 2021 that would change the Victims’ Charter Act 2006.

The first of these would require the Office of Public Prosecutions to notify crime victims of their right to make a victim impact statement at an offender’s sentencing.

The second would compel investigatory agencies and the OPP to inform victims of their right to seek compensation or restitution from a convicted offender, and to refer victims to available legal assistance.

The third would enable victims to seek a review of decisions by the Director of Public Prosecutions to discontinue prosecution, or proceed with a guilty plea to a lesser charge for an offender (plea-bargain), and require victims to be notified of this right.

“Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party recognises that the current government has been reforming some aspects of Victoria’s criminal justice law,” Mr Grimley said.

“But the government has left behind some key recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s 2016 report into ‘The role of victims of crime in the criminal trial process’ that would favour victims.

“Almost six years on, it’s time to stop talking about change, make it, and empower victims of crime.

“DHJP has seen time and again where victims are not advised of their right to make a victim impact statement ahead of sentencing. This is usually the only opportunity for them to participate formally in the criminal justice process, and it can be traumatic if they’re denied it.

“We also know that few victims are actually notified of their right to claim compensation for physical and mental injury, theft, property loss, and damage and destruction.

“The current law requires them to make a claim for compensation for mental or physical injuries within 12 months of a guilty verdict, so they need to act quickly. But you can’t act on something you don’t know about.”

Ms Maxwell said the VLRC also recommended establishing a right for victims to challenge a decision by the DPP to drop a prosecution or to plea-bargain.

“The amendment we’re putting forward would require the DPP to inform a victim of the reason for these decisions, the victim’s right to seek an internal review, and the details of how the review process works,” she said.

“A similar scheme operates in Britain where, when challenged, 11 per cent of decisions to discontinue prosecution or plea-bargain charges such as sexual assault were subsequently proved in court.”

The Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Procedure Disclosure and Other Matters) Bill 2021 is scheduled for debate in the Legislative Council on Tuesday, February 8.

 

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