ADDRESSING INJUSTICE AND IMPROVING THE RIGHTS OF VICTIMS

The Andrews Labor Government is addressing a serious historical injustice and helping to minimise unnecessary trauma for victims of crime during criminal proceedings.

The Labor Government today introduced new laws into Parliament that make clear that relevant historical care and protection orders are not to be treated as convictions or findings of guilt.

Historically, the child welfare and criminal justice systems in Victoria were not clearly differentiated. As a result, children often experienced historical care and protection applications made by the State as criminal proceedings, and care and protection orders made by courts were recorded by the State on criminal records.

The introduction of the Victims and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 follows a letter tabled in Parliament in March 2018 outlining the Government’s determination to address the harm and distress caused by this practice.

The Bill includes a Statement of Recognition acknowledging the considerable harm and distress caused by these historical recording practices, including the disproportionate effect these practices had on Aboriginal children.

The Bill will also enhance the role and protection of victims in criminal proceedings and strengthen the way victims’ complaints are managed.

These laws respond to a number of recommendations from the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s 2016 Report on The Role of Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process.

The new laws will strengthen the Victims’ Charter that formally recognises the rights of victims as participants in criminal proceedings and requires that they be treated with courtesy and respect.

The charter will also now require the Director of Public Prosecutions to consult victims on key milestones in criminal proceedings – including details of hearings – and inform them of the reasons for any significant decisions.

Under the Bill, the powers of the Victims of Crime Commissioner will be expanded to better support victims who have made a complaint. The Commissioner will review the outcome of a victim’s complaint and make recommendations to improve practices of the relevant agency.

The Commissioner will also monitor and report to the Parliament on criminal justice agencies’ compliance with their obligations under the Victims Charter.

Quotes attributable to Attorney-General Martin Pakula

“We’re acknowledging the significant personal harm caused by historical welfare recording practices and their disproportionate impact on Aboriginal children.”

“We’re implementing key recommendations made by the Victorian Law Reform Commission by giving victims more say in the justice system and better avenues to make complaints.”

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