Independent review of the operation of the Victims Register
The Victorian Government should undertake a comprehensive, independent review of the operation of the Victims Register to ensure the scheme is operating in a way that enhances victim participation
The Victims of Crime Commissioner urges the Victorian Government to undertake a comprehensive, independent review of the operation of the Victims Register, including the legislative framework in which it operates.
The Victims Register is governed by the Corrections Act 1986 (Vic) which provides that victims may be entitled to certain information about a prisoner including when the prisoner is eligible for parole or released from prison if they are registered victims.
However, victims’ rights and entitlements in relation to the Victims Register are weak and vague under the Victims’ Charter Act 2006 (Vic) (Victims’ Charter). The Victims’ Charter provides that justice and victims' services agencies should provide victims with information about ‘relevant support services’ and ‘possible entitlements’, but there is no single agency responsible for referring a victim to the Victims Register.
Research suggests there remains a low awareness of the Victims Register and victims find it highly distressing when they learn they have missed out on information that is fundamental to their safety and to their ability to manage risks associated with being a victim of crime.
The Victims of Crime Commissioner strongly advocates for more robust information and referral entitlements under the Victims’ Charter to ensure all eligible victims know about the Victims Register including for victims to be given tailored information specifically about the Victims Register, and referred by a prosecuting agency to the Victims Register at sentencing.
The Victims of Crime Commissioner is also concerned that victims are not being provided with sufficient support and information once on the Victims Register. Little is known about victim satisfaction with the information and support provided by the Victims Register.
The Victims of Crime Commissioner recommends the Victorian Government undertake a comprehensive, independent review of the Victims Register to:
- consider whether the current eligibility for the Victims Register is sufficient (including scope of offences/sentences)
- examine the risks / opportunities of an ‘opt-out’ instead of ‘opt-in’ register given the low awareness of the Victims Register
- examine why so few victims register, including publishing transparent data on the number of registered victims as a percentage of total number of eligible victims
- consider broadening the Victims’ Charter to require specific agencies to inform victims of the Victims Register and provide tailored advice and referral at specific points of the justice process
- consult with victims on their experience with the Victims Register including information provision and participation in parole decisions
- explore whether other justice processes, such as information and notifications relating to bail, spent convictions and processes under the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 should also fall within the scope of the Victims Register
- assess whether the Victims Register has sufficient funding and resourcing to provide a comprehensive, trauma-informed service response to registered victims as well as capacity to assess and consider risks to victims.
The Victims Register is an important initiative. The Victims of Crime Commissioner supports the continuation of the Victims Register – but it can only be effective if victims know about it and the scheme operates in a way that enhances victim participation.