Parliamentary Inquiry recommends overhaul of justice system
Wednesday, 30 March 2022
The Commissioner has welcomed recommendations to overhaul the justice system to better support victims and help them participate in the justice system.
The reforms are part of key findings and recommendations from the Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into Victoria’s Criminal Justice System report.
“I welcome this comprehensive report by the Legal and Social Issues Committee which has put a spotlight on the voices of those with lived experience of crime,” Victims of Crime Commissioner Fiona McCormack said.
“While significant work has been done over the past 20 years to improve the experiences of people who are victims of crime, it is evident from this report that so much more has to be done.
“Many victims of crime who gave evidence and made submissions to the Inquiry spoke about the ways in which the justice system re-traumatised them because they did not get the right support, information or because their entitlements as victims were not upheld.
“It is clear the Committee listened to what victims told them - that the justice and victim support system needs urgent reform to create a safe path for victims through the justice system.
“Victims are waiting too long for state-funded financial assistance and the victim support system has been described as ‘one-size-fits-all’, lacking the ability to tailor service provision to victims’ needs, be culturally safe and appropriate for people with disability.
“Many victims also feel abandoned by the justice system, left to navigate a complex and confusing legal process without assistance from an independent lawyer to guide them on their role, the justice process and their entitlements as a victim.
“I urge the Government to implement key victims’ reforms in this report including:
- funding the establishment of a comprehensive Victims’ Legal Service to provide state-funded legal advice for victims in relation to the full range of legal issues arising in the context of victimisation
- providing funding to courts to upgrade facilities so that courts are a safe place for victims of crime
- urgently fixing the delays and inequities faced by victims applying to the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) and adequately funding the victim support system to give victims the help they need when they need it.
“I also welcome the Committee’s findings that sexual assault victims would benefit from an independent right to review scheme as well as a pilot program providing independent legal representation up until point of trial. These reinforce key findings of the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s 2021 sexual offences review and I call on the Government to commit to these important reforms.
“While I am pleased to see so many of the recommendations from my submission reflected in the report, which is a positive step forward, there is still so much more to be done to provide all victims with strengthened legal protections and entitlements. For example, an independent right to review scheme should be open to all victims, not just victims of sexual assault. “And while independent legal representation up until the point of trial will be valuable for sexual assault victims, it is time for the Government to seriously consider whether there is a role for victims to have independent legal representation in some form during the trial process.
“The Committee has highlighted the importance of victims having stronger laws to protect their entitlements. I welcome the Committee’s proposed reforms to the Victims’ Charter which would see victims of crime receive the same entitlement to information and consultation during the justice process, regardless of whether their case is prosecuted in the Magistrates’ Court or the County and Supreme Courts.
“This important Inquiry has exposed the many barriers and traumas faced by victims of crime.
“I look forward to discussions with Government to strengthen victims’ entitlements and provide victims with the support they need so that seeking justice is a safe option for victims.”
Read the Commissioner’s submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry.