Statement on Judicial Proceedings Reports Amendment Bill
Friday, 13 August 2021
Victims of Crime Commissioner Fiona McCormack said:
“As Commissioner I strongly support victims, and their families where a victim is no longer living, being free to speak out about sexual assault where this is appropriate for them.
“Removing barriers to speaking out about sexual assault is indicative of a positive cultural change in our community. I am an advocate for reducing the stigma of sexual assault in the community and achieving this in ways that enables victims to have agency and control about what is shared publicly about their personal stories.
“I also know that people impacted by crime often want different things which is why I advocate for responses that allow choice for victims and their families.
“I have heard from some victims and families that having details made public about sexual assault is not always trauma-informed or culturally safe. For this reason, I also strongly support the right of those who don’t want to speak out, or have their experiences reported, to have their privacy protected.
“The Bill currently before Parliament ensures that there are no barriers for victims and families who want to speak out. This is a positive development as it ensures victims, and their families, are heard and that the law does not act in ways that silence them. Some family members whose loved one has been sexually assaulted and murdered in horrific circumstances have spoken about the importance of being able to speak publicly about their loved one and shine a light on the urgent need for criminal justice reform and cultural change.
“A victim of sexual assault should never feel shame about their experience however it’s important to be mindful that not all victims or their families want this information in the media or public domain. I support victims and their families’ right to decide whether the details of a sexual assault are made public.
“The Victim Privacy Order scheme developed by Government will be available to some victims and their families to secure their privacy. However, a VPO is not guaranteed. The proposed Bill provides for VPOs in exceptional cases only, where the need for such protection outweighs the public interest in publication.
“I believe the Victim Privacy Order process should be trauma-informed and support the safety and privacy of those victims and families where this is necessary for personal, cultural or religious reasons. I also know that court processes can be extremely traumatic for victims so I will be seeking advice from victims and information from the Courts and Government around the Victim Privacy Order application process to ensure it’s simple, cost-free, trauma-informed and culturally safe.
“These reforms again raise the issue of victims’ access to specialised, government-funded legal advice. The need for a dedicated victims’ legal service has been consistently raised in Victoria in recent reviews and inquiries. The Victorian Government should commit to funding a comprehensive victims’ legal service that includes supporting victims with legal processes such as applications for a Victim Privacy Order.”