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Victims of Crime (Victims Rights) Amendment Bill

Introduction and First Reading

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (16:34): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Victims of Crime Act. Read a first time.

Second Reading

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (16:35): I move: That this bill be now read a second time.

The bill I present before the house today is intended to give victims of crime more rights under the law. Victims are often the forgotten participants in the criminal justice system. The Director of Public Prosecutions pursues matters on behalf of the Crown and the community against an alleged offender who has breached the standards of society; however, the person who was directly affected by the alleged actions of the offender is often left out of the process. Victims often have very little understanding of the legal proceedings and technicalities, yet in many cases they are the ones who have suffered the most from the crime. Victims often do not get a say in the process until the very end when they are able to provide a victim impact statement.

Victims often have to fight for information rather than being kept informed throughout the process. If the prosecution decides to downgrade or amend charges, they may not be consulted or consent, and this, in particular, can lead victims of crime feeling like the system is working in spite of them, and disconnecting them from proceedings, proceedings which ultimately are about the injustices committed against them. The bill will enshrine in law that victims of crime are legitimate participants in the criminal justice process and will increase their rights. It changes the tone of the act to indicate that victims must be treated in a certain way, and outlines that they must be consulted in circumstances.

To assist with this, the bill also clarifies the manner in which the Commissioner for Victims' Rights is to be treated, what information should be provided to them, and gives the commissioner the ability to act if they become aware that certain parts of the act have not been followed. I want to make it clear that I am not saying that the prosecution is doing a bad job or is deliberately excluding victims of crime, but this is an opportunity for the parliament to send a strong message on how we expect victims of crime to be treated. I understand there are many within the DPP's team who go above and beyond even what this bill outlines; however, this will set the minimum standard for what the parliament's expectations are. I commend the bill to the house.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. D.G.E. Hood.