strengthen protections for victims of crime

09 March 2022
 strengthen protections for victims of crime

Tania Maxwell strengthens victim protections

Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party late yesterday secured government agreement to extend protections for people harmed by crime from facing their offenders at Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal hearings.

Member for Northern Victoria Tania Maxwell MP successfully amended the government’s omnibus workplace safety bill* in the Legislative Council to stop stalkers and people threatening serious injury or death from attending or being notified of tribunal proceedings.

“Where a victim seeks help on the path to recovery, the government rightly wanted to prohibit someone who has committed, or is accused of committing, family violence or abhorrent sexual offences from being given notice of the time and place where the hearing is to occur,” Ms Maxwell said.

“This is a welcome protection for victims, but in Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party we believed the changes should go further.

“Threatening to kill, do serious harm and stalking happen within the home and family relationships.

“But these horrific offences also occur beyond it – where people work, socialise and communicate – and they’re widely reported as being markers for future violence.

“Threat re-offending occurs at twice the rate for all offenders in Victoria, and there’s no substantial difference in re-offending rates between family situations and elsewhere.”

Ms Maxwell said a Victorian Law Reform Commission paper had reported almost 13,900 stalking offences recorded by Victoria Police, with stalking in the context of family violence occurring at only a slightly higher rate than in other situations.

“Similarly, in the eight years to December 2019, more than 66,000 threat offences were recorded by police in Victoria,” she said.

“Nearly two thirds of these were threats to kill and more than half were associated with family violence.

“That means a substantial proportion were unrelated to family violence, and I think we have a responsibility to provide protection and support for those victims in the same way that we protect victims of family violence.”

Ms Maxwell said threat offences cause immediate fear but also limit a victim’s freedom of choice.

“Someone who has a fixation on a person, perhaps without even knowing them personally, can wreak havoc in their victim’s life,” she said.

“An opportune offender can use the knowledge of their target’s VOCAT hearing to offend again – such as placing a tracking device on the victim or their vehicle.

“Simply being in the vicinity of the tribunal can become an act of intimidation, alone deterring a victim from even making an application for assistance.”

Ms Maxwell’s amendment was also supported by the opposition.

Comments attributable to Di McDonald, a victim-survivor of stalking whose offender was jailed in 2020 for eight months and given a two-year community corrections order:

Stalking appears to still be a forgotten crime. To be told by a magistrate at the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal to come back when you have a case is truly horrific. To read a victim impact statement in front of the offender is also horrific.

To have stalking and threats to kill and commit serious injury now recognised is a huge step forward. I still have not been recognised for the psychological injuries suffered from my offender seven years ago.

I listened to the debate throughout. It was such a high-five moment when the bill passed. As a result of these amendments, future victims will now have their voices heard.

A massive thank you to Tania Maxwell and everyone for their persistence in highlighting these insidious crimes.


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