VICTIMS OF CRIME
A victim of crime is a person who has suffered or has been affected because of crime. It can include the victim, or someone who saw the crime, like witness as well as family members and friends on the victim. Being a victim of any crime can seriously affect a person’s life so it’s important to recognise when you, or someone you know, has been a victim and what you can do about it.
A victim of crime includes someone who:
- was hurt because of an act of violence or hurt trying to help a victim
- someone who saw an act of violence
- someone who is a close family member, dependant (this means you rely on them) or the partner of someone who died. .
Examples of crimes where there is a victim include things like physical assault, theft, domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, child abuse and car crashes.
Even though there are many reactions to crime, every person is unique and so everyone’s experience will be different. Some effects of crime may be felt immediately but others might take longer to notice. It’s important to get help and support to deal with these effects so that you can recover from a criminal act.
The law gives special rights to victims of crime. If you are a victim of crime, some of your rights include that you should:
- be treated with courtesy, respect and dignity by investigatory agencies, prosecuting agencies and victims’ services agencies;
- be treated with respect to your race or indigenous background, culture, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion and age.
- be given clear and consistent information without delay about support services and forms of available legal assistance.
- generally, you should be kept up to date with the progress of police investigations (unless it will jeopardise the investigation or you ask not to be provided that with information);
- be kept up to date with changes in the prosecution process, such as:
- whether or not the person accused of the criminal offence has been charged and why;
- the date, time and place of the hearing of the charges;
- the outcome of the criminal proceedings against the accused person (such as the sentence imposed);
- details of any appeals the accused may make; and the outcomes and conditions of any applications for bail (release of a person waiting to go to court) by the accused person.
- have your right to privacy protected, including protection of your personal information, such as your address and telephone number.
If you are in immediate danger call the police on 000.
- If you think that the offender (person who committed the crime) will harm you again, contact a police officer. They will tell you what you can do and may suggest an order to stop the offender from coming near or harming you. This is called a Personal Safety Intervention Order (PSIO) or a Family Violence Intervention Order (FVIO) (if the person is part of your family or a partner or ex-partner). These are orders which place conditions or rules about how an offender can behave towards you. It is a crime for someone to break orders in a PSIO and the penalties are very very serious including prison time.
Examples of when an order may be made is when someone is violent, threatens you or your property, harasses or scares you.
If you would like an order, you can apply for one at your local Magistrates Court. If you are under 18 you can apply for one at the Children’s Court, or ask your parent or guardian to apply for one for you. Police officers can also apply for a PSIO or a FVIO on behalf of both adults and children.
You can get more information on the process of getting a PSIO or a FVIO and ask for help with filling out your application form by calling Victoria Legal Aid’s Information Service on (03) 9269 0120(03) 9269 0120 or 1800 677 4021800 677 402 FREE (if you are calling from the country), or by visiting their website here.
Victims of crime may be able to apply for financial help in the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal. (VOCAT)
It’s important that you send in your application within 2 years of the crime occurring.
If you are thinking of applying for compensation, and you would like help, the Victims of Crime Helpline is a free service that can assist. You can call them at 1800 819 8171800 819 817 FREE
. They can also help you with other issues (see below).
It is important to talk to someone if you have been a victim of a crime. So if you can’t talk to one of your friends or a family member, or you just want to talk to someone with experience there are different services available:
- Kids Helpline: If you are under the age of 25 you can always call the Kids Helpline. The Kids Helpline provide 24/7 free counselling on any issue affecting youth under the age of 25. If you would like to speak to someone one on one you can call them on 1800 55 18001800 55 1800 FREE or live chat at www.kidshelp.com.au
- Victims of Crime Helpline: You can also call the Victims of Crime Helpline between 8 am to 11pm for advice on general issues affecting victims of crime such as emergency accommodation, getting ready for court, help with the Victim Impact Statement and counselling. You can call them on 1800 819 8171800 819 817 FREE or email them on email@example.com.
- National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line: provide specialised counselling for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Call them on 1800 737 7321800 737 732 FREE.
In an emergency situation, you should always call 000 for help immediately.
For crimes committed which are not emergencies, you can choose to report the crime:
- by visiting a local police station. You can find the contact details of your local police station here: LINK http://www.police.vic.gov.au/content.asp?Document_ID=7 on the Victorian Police’s website.
- to Crime Stoppers Victoria, either online here or calling 1800 333 0001800 333 000 FREE.
When reporting a crime, try to keep any evidence that you have because this may help police.
When you make a report, tell the police exactly what happened. They will give you a 'Notice to the Victim' form. This provides important information about services that can help you with financial assistance and counseling.
The 'Notice to the Victim' form will tell you the name of the police officer who is dealing with your case. This person is your contact if you have any questions about the police investigation.
You may also need this form to support an application for counseling or financial assistance from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal.
When you report a crime to the police, the main steps in the criminal justice system are:
- you report a crime to police;
- the police investigate the crime;
- the police may charge a person with the crime;
- a court decides whether the person is innocent or guilty;
- if the person is guilty, the court sentences a person, which may include a jail sentence, depending on the seriousness of the crime.
You are entitled to know from the police
- the charge
- the date and time of the hearing
- the outcome of the hearing.
If the person charged admits that they are guilty, victims and witnesses are not usually required to give evidence.
If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case usually goes to court. You might be given court notices by either the investigating officer of the DPP telling you when you need to go to court. If you are given a notice, you must attend court unless the police or DPP tells you otherwise.
You will also be allowed to explain to the Court how the crime has affected you. This is called a Victim Impact Statement.
If you think you may be called as a witness in court, it can be helpful to get information and support before the date of the hearing. The Victoria Victims of Crime webpage link: http://www.victimsofcrime.vic.gov.au/home/going+to+court/
provides information on what to expect.
You can also contact the Witness Assistance Service to support you. There is a special group within this service called the Children Witness Service that specifically help kids and young people who have to attend court as witnesses. You can call them on 1800 790 5401800 790 540 FREE
If you are a victim of crime and you want information about an offender who is in jail, you may be eligible to be listed on a victims register. A victim’s register provides information about an offender’s impending release, escape from custody, parole considerations or any unescorted absence from custody.
To put in a request to be listed on the victims register, contact the Victim Register on 1800 819 8171800 819 817 FREE or (03) 8684 6700(03) 8684 6700 if you are interstate. You can also email the Registrar on VictimsRegister@justice.vic.gov.au, or download an application form to be put on the Victims Register here.
This page was last updated on the 13th of June 2015