The Victims Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 (ACT) (the “Bill”) was introduced to the ACT’s Legislative Assembly on 2 July 2020 by the Minister for Justice, Mr Shane Rattenbury MLA . The Bill proposes extensive amendments to the Human Rights Commission Act 2005 and the Victims of Crime Act 1994. The Bill is currently before the Assembly.
As indicated in the Bill’s Explanatory Statement (“ES”), the object of the Bill is to provide:
The Bill introduces an accountability framework in the Victims of Crime Act 1994 (the “VOC Act”) and the Human Rights Commission Act 2005 (the “HRC Act”), that will give victims access to processes for making justice agency complaints and raising “victim rights concerns where a victim[s] right in the Charter has not been upheld by an obligated agency”.
The VOC Act is amended to replace the “governing principles for the treatment of victims of crime in the administration of justice” contained in the VOC Act, with the Charter of Rights for Victims of Crime (the “Charter”).
According to the EM, victim rights under the VOC Act provide detailed guidance to victims and agencies about victim entitlements, but currently, existing provisions and entitlements for victims can be inconsistently applied and at times challenging for victims to access.
It has been reported that many victims experience difficulty navigating the justice system due to a lack of information and not being included in criminal justice processes and can “lead to re-traumatisation, putting pressure on the victim support and health systems, and can deter people from reporting crimes and cooperating with prosecutions”.
In the Minister’s speech, he referred to some of the changes:
According to the Bill’s ES, the purpose of the Charter “is to establish legislated rights for victims of crime and obligations for justice agencies when dealing with victims, along with an accountability framework for ensuring those obligations are met”.
The Charter provides detailed, clear operational guidance to victims and agencies about victim engagement and obligations and introduces rights in the following areas:
As noted on the ACT Government’swebsite, the Charter will include “people who have experienced crime and have contacted ACT justice agencies will be covered by the Charter”. In some circumstances, immediate family members and dependents will also be included as well as people who have experienced serious crime may have enhanced rights under the Charter.
The(the “HRC”) notes that “people who have been victims of crime have limited influence on the course of investigation, prosecution and sentencing of crimes committed against them”.
The HRC also notes [at page 5] of the(the “Report”):
The Report also reveals theobserved that:
Commenting on the proposed legislation in his speech to parliament, the Minister said:
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