Changes to make victims of crime claims faster and easier
A significant change to the procedure for claims under the Victims of Crime Act will make it a lot less stressful and much faster for victims to obtain compensation.
The Victims of Crime scheme provides compensation to victims for the pain and suffering they have endured as a result of a crime along with the financial loss they have incurred. However many victims have been deterred from making a claim because of the requirement to serve a copy of their application for compensation on the offender. South Australia has been the only State to have this requirement. Until now the only time that this could be avoided is if the whereabouts of the offender wasn’t known and couldn’t be readily ascertained, or if the identity of the offender just isn’t known.
For many victims this requirement to make contact with the offender is so stressful and traumatising that they choose not to make a claim for compensation altogether. For a victim of domestic violence or sexual offending there has been a real risk that making such contact with the offender could retrigger violence against them. It has been estimated that 25 per cent of applications for compensation are by victims of this these types of offences. In other cases where the offender knows the victim, such as when someone has been assaulted by a neighbour or where the victim has suffered a home invasion, the very thought of serving a copy of the application on the offender discourages a claim. The offender might consider this a personal ‘attack’ on them by the victim.
In addition, applications for compensation will contain personal information that is inappropriate to provide to the offender. The reasoning behind this requirement for service on the offender was to allow them the chance to make submissions to the Crown Solicitor’s Office during the application process about what compensation the victim should receive. In reality however it is very rare that an offender will make such a submission and even less likely that an award of compensation is reduced by what the offender might have to say. Yet, by receiving the application the offender has been given access to a lot of personal information which might include medical reports and details of the victim’s injuries.
The process when applying for compensation as a victim of crime has two stages. To begin, an application is made to the Crown Solicitor for compensation. The vast majority of claims are settled at this stage however if the amount of compensation isn’t agreed then an application needs to be made to the Court. At both stages the offender has been made aware of the claim and when the process is started in Court the offender is actually joined to the claim as a party to the proceedings. These changes will remove the requirement to involve the offender at both stages.
After compensation has been paid to a victim the Crown Solicitor can choose to try to get that money back from the offender through a process called recovery, but that won’t involve the victim at all. In those cases, the offender will still be able to have a say if they believe that the amount that the Crown is trying to recover from them should be reduced but all of that contact will now be between the offender and the Crown Solicitor.
A further benefit to this change is that it will speed up the compensation process. Very often it can be difficult to obtain the contact details of the offender and to locate them to serve the application on them. This has caused significant delays in finalising compensation claims for victims.
Once the change is in place, all communication with the offender about the claim will occur after the victim has been paid compensation and will only come from the Crown Solicitor’s Office. There will be no need at all for the victim to make any kind of contact.
According to the SA Attorney-General, these changes, “Will relieve literally hundreds of [victims] of indignity and potentially quite stressful circumstances by virtue of no longer having to serve the offender.”
Websters Lawyers have assisted hundreds of victims to obtain compensation through the Victims of Crime scheme. For more information about these claims visit our page here or to arrange for a free, no obligation appointment to discuss whether you can make a claim contact us today.
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