Victim Participation in Justice System

Victims of Crime Commissioner (Vic)

Media release
23 June 2021

The Victims of Crime Commissioner Fiona McCormack is pleased to announce her first
systemic inquiry which will focus on victim participation in the justice system. The Terms
of Reference can be found on the Commissioner’s website.
Why has this systemic inquiry been announced?
Too often victims are not at the centre of decisions and processes—victims’ rights,
interests, feelings, and wishes are seen as an afterthought, or worse, not recognised,
seen, or heard at all.
Since 2018, victims in Victoria have been recognised under the Victims’ Charter Act 2006
(Vic) (Victims’ Charter) as ‘participants’ in criminal proceedings. But such reforms do not
always translate into tangible improvements in victims’ experience of the justice process.
Little is known about how victims are experiencing these new participatory entitlements
in Victoria and whether victims’ status as a participant in the justice process has
improved with these entitlements.
As part of this inquiry, the Commissioner will look at whether victims feel they have been
able to participate in the justice system, and whether new laws or policies might be
needed to help victims participate in keeping with their entitlements under the Victims’
Charter.
Background to the Inquiry
The 2016 report of the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC), Victims of Crime in the
Criminal Trial Process found that there is a significant disparity between the victim’s role
as expressed in legislation and the victim’s experience in practice.
The VLRC recommended that the role of the victim as a participant in criminal
proceedings be legislatively and ‘operationally recognised’.
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Since 2018, the Victims’ Charter has recognised victims as a participant, but not a party,
in proceedings for criminal offences. Specifically, the Victims’ Charter was amended in
2018 to create:
• a new object of the Victims’ Charter to recognise that a victim of crime has an
inherent interest in the response by the criminal justice system to that crime,
giving rise to the rights and entitlements set out in the Charter, and to
acknowledge the victim’s role as a participant, but not a party, in proceedings for
criminal offences;
• a requirement for investigatory, prosecuting and victims’ services agencies to
respect the rights and entitlements of victims as participants in proceedings for
criminal offences.
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