Victim Support in the ACT

Contributed by Elysha Treacy and Allison Munro from Victim Support ACT. Current at 10 December 2021.

The Rights of Victims of Crime

Victim Support ACT

Victim Support ACT provides free and confidential services for victims of crime in the ACT. Victim Support ACT operates within the ACT Human Rights Commission and administers the Victims Services Scheme, the Financial Assistance Scheme, the Charter of Victims Rights, the Intermediary Program and the Family Violence Safety Action Pilot. Victim Support ACT has an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program to assist clients to access services in a culturally appropriate way, a Multicultural Outreach Program to help meet the needs of clients from diverse cultural backgrounds and a Disability Outreach Project to improve visibility and access to our service for people who live with disability.

Victim Support ACT services are available to victims of crimes that were committed in the ACT. This includes people who have suffered harm as a result of a crime, family members of a person who has died as a result of a crime and people who have witnessed a crime. Victims of crime do not need to have reported the crime to police to access Victim Support ACT services.

The Victims Services Scheme and the Charter of Rights for Victims of Crime operates in accordance with the Victims of Crime Act 1994 and the Victims of Crime Regulation 2000. The Victims of Crime Financial Assistance Scheme operates in accordance with the Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance) Act 2016 and the Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance) Regulation 2016. The Intermediary Program operates in accordance with the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1991.

Victims of Crime Commissioner

The Victims of Crime Commissioner is the agency head of Victim Support ACT. The statutory functions of the Victims of Crime Commissioner are set out in s11 of the Victims of Crime Act 1994, including:
  • Manage the Victim Services Scheme, the Financial Assistance Scheme and any other program for the benefit of victims of crime
  • Advocate for the interests of victims of crime
  • Advocate for the interests of affected people under the Mental Health Act 2015
  • Monitor and promote compliance with victims rights and ensure victims rights concerns are dealt with promptly and effectively, as well as promote the prompt and effective resolution of victims rights complaints
  • Promote reforms to meet the interests of victims of crime
  • Develop educational and other programs to promote awareness of the interests of victims of crime
  • Advise the Minister on matters relating to the interests of victims of crime

Charter of Rights for Victims of Crime

The Charter of Rights for Victims of Crime commenced in January 2021 and is contained in the Victims of Crime Act 1994. The Charter protects and promotes the rights of victims of crime when they engage with justice agencies in the criminal justice system. The Charter recognises the central role that victims of crime play in the criminal justice system and upholds their rights to safety, privacy, dignity and participation.

The Charter includes specific rights for victims of crime in the following areas:
  • Respectful engagement and protections related to safety and privacy
  • Access to support services and other forms of assistance
  • Provision of information about general administration of justice processes
  • Provision of information in regards to investigations, proceedings and decisions
  • Participation in proceedings where appropriate The justice agencies that must uphold the Charter of Rights for Victims of Crime include ACT Policing, the ACT Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, ACT Corrective Services, ACT Courts and Tribunals when acting in an administrative capacity, the Sentence Administration Board, the Restorative Justice Unit and Victim Support ACT.

Victims of crime who believe a justice agency has not complied with their rights under the Charter can:
  • Make a complaint to the justice agency directly
  • Raise a concern with Victim Support ACT
  • Make a complaint to the Disability and Community Services Commissioner in the ACT Human Rights Commission
Where concerns are raised to Victim Support ACT a case coordinator can liaise with the justice agency on behalf of a victim of crime and seek information to assist to resolve the concern.

More information about the Charter of Rights for Victims of Crime is available on the Victim Support ACT website, including a link to a comprehensive booklet for victims of crime which explains criminal justice processes and identifies victims rights at each stage.

Victims' Rights under the Human Rights Act

Victims of crime also have human rights under the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT) when they engage with government organisations including justice agencies. Government organisations must act consistently with human rights and give proper consideration to human rights when making decisions in relation to victims of crime.

Human rights relevant to victims of crime in the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT) include:

  • Recognition and equality before the law
  • Right to life
  • Right to protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Protection of the family
  • Right to protection of children and young people
  • Privacy and home
  • Right to security of person
  • Fair trial

Victim Support ACT can work with the ACT Human Rights Commission complaints team to progress victims rights, discrimination, health services and disability service complaints.

Victim Impact Statements

Where an offender has been found guilty or pleaded guilty to an offence, victims of crime have the right to make a victim impact statement to the court at the time of sentencing. A victim impact statement is an opportunity for the victim of crime to tell the court how the offence has affected them and their families and the court will consider this in determining an appropriate sentence to impose on the offender. There is further information about victim impact statements on the ACT Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions website and the Victim Support ACT website.

The Charter of Victims Rights sets out specific rights in relation to victim impact statements and Victim Support ACT case coordinators can support victims to prepare a victim impact statement.

Intermediary Program

The ACT Intermediary Program provides the services of intermediaries at police interviews, court matters and at engagements with legal professionals across the ACT. Intermediaries are accredited professionals and independent officers of the court that have been specially trained to facilitate the communication of vulnerable witnesses. The program draws on the expertise of a small number of in-house intermediaries as well as a larger group of panel intermediaries. All intermediaries have undertaken rigorous training to become accredited and come from a diverse range of allied health profession backgrounds. including speech pathology, social work, psychology and occupational therapy.

Intermediaries are experienced at facilitating the communication of people with:
  • Language delays
  • Mental health issues
  • Learning disabilities
  • Cognitive issues and acquired brain injuries
  • Autism
  • Age-related issues
  • Other types of communication difficulties Intermediary services can be utilised by lawyers in:
  • Criminal matters for complainants, witnesses and accused persons
  • Civil legal matters for applicant and respondents including, but not limited to, neighbourhood disputes, tenancy issues and applications relating to protection orders The ACT Intermediary Program is available to legal professionals needing to obtain instructions from clients, and when providing legal advice to clients of any age who have communication needs in the types of matters outlined above. Intermediary service provision in lawyer-client sessions can occur in a variety of locations, such as the ACT Legal Aid office, police stations or a client’s home.

More information regarding the Program, including who to contact for an intermediary, can be found here:

Family Violence Safety Action Plot

The Family Violence Safety Action Pilot, funded by the Federal Government’s National Partnership on COVID-19 DFV Responses, is a short-term expansion of the Family Violence Intervention Program’s case-tracking process. The pilot’s goal is to enable the ACT Government and non-government sectors to collaboratively identify, assess and respond to high-risk DFV matters, with a focus on perpetrator accountability.

The Family Violence Safety Action Pilot is established to:
  • Provide an expanded integrated risk assessment and response model to identify, assess and respond to people who may be at high risk of domestic and family violence (DFV)
  • increase the safety, health and wellbeing of those persons subjected to DFV
  • increase the visibility and accountability of DFV perpetrators
The Family Violence Safety Action Pilot aims to improve the safety of victim survivors by:
  • Collecting and sharing information to identify and assess the risk of harm that a DFV perpetrator poses to victim survivors, including children and young people.
  • Improving perpetrator visibility and accountability in government and non-government responses to DFV.
  • Increasing service accountability to victim survivor safety through collaborative action planning and service delivery.
  • Improving understanding across Government and Non-Government agencies of the dynamics of DFV, victim survivor safety and perpetrator accountability.
This is achieved via short term DFV informed case coordination, and where needed matters are discussed at our fortnightly collaborative meetings currently attended by:
  • ACT Policing
  • CYPS
  • HACT
  • ACT Corrective Services
  • DVCS
  • Everyman
  • Toora
  • Legal Aid
  • Victim Support ACT

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