Victims of upskirting, grooming, and image-based sex offences will be eligible for financial aid in Victoria, as the process for all crime victims to receive financial support is simplified.
The Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance Scheme) Bill 2022, which aims to change the process by which victims seek for financial assistance to help them recover from their crimes, was tabled into Victorian Parliament this week with the motivation to make it significantly easier for victims of crime to access compensation very quickly.
The amendments will eliminate the present Victims of Crime Aid Tribunal, which means victims will no longer be required to attend a hearing or face the criminals in order to receive financial assistance. This has been a massive disincentive for victims of crime who were seeking compensation. In fact, many victims walked away from significant amounts of compensation because of their nervousness about having to go to court and confront convicted criminals.
Natalie Hutchins, the Minister for Victim Support, claimed that going to a court-based tribunal had aggravated many victims’ anguish, resulting in “far too many victims” giving up on seeking support or not applying at all.
Practically speaking, what will now occur is that instead of a hearing, victims will be able to request a meeting with a scheme representative to address the harm they have suffered. This will now result in people who have been victims of crime finally being able to seek compensation without worry and concern about the ramifications of doing so.
The plan will also undergo the following modifications:
- The time restriction for victims of sexual assault or domestic violence to file a claim will be increased from two to ten years.
- Children who have been exposed to domestic abuse will be seen as victims in their own right.
- To prevent pain and conflict among family members, the current practice of pooling financial aid for bereaved families will be phased out.
- The plan will include a variety of criminal offences not now covered by existing legislation, including sex offences like upskirting, grooming, and image-based abuse.
In the second half of 2023, the reforms are projected to take effect. They cannot come soon enough for victims of crime in Victoria.
But what is the current legislation in Victoria relating to Victims of Crime Compensation?
What kind of financial support are available to eligible victims?
The Tribunal has the authority to grant financial help for a variety of expenses. Whether an eligible applicant is a primary, secondary, or associated victim of crime will determine the types of help the Tribunal can provide. The following are some examples of financial aid that a crime victim may be eligible for:
- Reasonable counselling expenses
- Reasonable medical expenses (including dental, optometry, physiotherapy, hospital and ambulance expenses)
- The replacement of damaged clothing worn at the time of the crime
- Reasonable safety-related expenses
- Lost earnings up to a maximum of $20,000
- Special financial assistance – a symbolic lump sum payment of up to $10,000
- Distress and dependency
- Reasonable funeral expenses
- In exceptional circumstances, other reasonable expenses that will assist an applicant in their recovery from the crime
Is there a deadline for filing a claim with Victims of Crime?
In general, applications should be filed within two years after the date of the violent conduct. In some cases, you may be able to request a time extension. You should get legal assistance as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Primary victims are not the only ones who are entitled to help. If you are connected to or close to the principal victim or deceased person, you may be eligible for financial aid depending on your circumstances. If you are the victim’s spouse or a family, you may also be eligible for help and compensation. Witnesses to violent crimes are also eligible for help.
There are three types of victims for the purposes of Victims of Crimes Assistance:
Victims in the First Degree
A primary victim is someone who is directly hurt or killed as a result of a crime. Those hurt while attempting to prevent a violent crime or aiding or rescuing a victim are included.
Victims who are not the primary victims
A person who has been harmed as a result of witnessing or learning about a violent incident may seek for financial help.
Victims in the Same Situation
Related victims who have a “intimate personal relationship” with the original victim or the deceased may be entitled for financial aid as well. Relatives such as children, spouses, and love partners are included.
Which crimes are eligible for compensation?
All violent offences have the potential to be paid. Stalking, aggravated assault, domestic violence, sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, armed robbery, aggravated burglary, child abuse, child sexual abuse, indecent assault, breaking and entering, threats to commit murder, manslaughter, murder, dangerous driving, violation of a Family Violence Order, and other violent crimes are just a few examples.
Injured prisoners on remand or in other forms of detention are also encouraged to ask for financial aid. However, even if a prisoner’s prior criminal history is unconnected to the offence, VOCAT must evaluate the victim’s criminal record. This means that while convicts are eligible to apply for VOCAT, their financial aid will be reduced.
Who is eligible for VOCAT compensation?
Applicants must be able to demonstrate the following in order to be successful in their application for assistance:
They were the victims of a crime that occurred in Victoria, and as a result of that crime, they were hurt (either physically or psychologically).
Victims must also report the offence to the police within a fair time frame.
The burden of proof in a victims of crime application is substantially lower than in criminal procedures, and most cases are resolved without the need for a hearing.
Applications must be submitted within two years of the offence, with exceptions for mitigating circumstances.
Applicants may have been harmed as a result of a violent crime or as a witness to a violent crime. They could also be parents of injured children who have had negative consequences as a result of learning about their kid’s injury. They could also be close relatives of a victim who died as a direct result of a violent crime.
How much does it cost to file a VOCAT claim?
Whether you undertake the VOCAT application yourself or have a lawyer do it for you, there is no cost to apply for VOCAT compensation. In other words, you can have one of our compensation lawyers at Law By Dan do all the work for you with no cost. We recover our costs from the government.
How can I file a Victims of Crime Compensation Act (VOCAT) claim?
You can apply to VOCAT directly or through your local magistrate’s court after completing the paperwork yourself, or you can go to a lawyer who will prepare your paperwork for free and guide you through the process.
Are there any lawyers who specialise in VOCAT cases?
Like all areas of law, lawyers tend to specialise in certain areas of law. What this means is that you need to consult with a lawyer who has strong expertise, experience and success in making applications for victims of crime in Victoria. Our lawyers at Law By Dan can assist you in this regard today.
What expenses will be covered by the VOCAT compensation?
Legal fees associated with eligible claims, counselling, medical expenditures, and funeral costs, if applicable, will all be covered by VOCAT.
Why Make a Claim?
This is an important service that recognises that victims have been through a lot and have legitimate needs. If you don’t take advantage of the financial resources available to you, you risk delaying your rehabilitation and exacerbating the effects of the crime. Many victims miss out on the opportunity to receive therapeutically beneficial counselling treatments.