All members of the community who come into contact with the criminal justice system, but particularly victims of the crime, are entitled to know what their obligations are in helping the law enforcement agencies and, in return, what standard of service they can expect to receive from those involved in the criminal justice system. This Charter sets out these rights and duties of victims of crime. The Charter is not meant to be the final word: standards need to be kept under review and the aim would be to improve standards of service for victims of crime wherever possible.
Who is a victim?
A victim is a person who suffers physical or emotional harm, or loss or damage to property because of a criminal offence. This covers not only the person against whom the offence was committed but also anyone who has suffered directly from the commission of the offence. The definition of victim may include for example the parent of a child who has been sexually abused or the immediate family of a murder victim.
1. The duty to help maintain law and order
Every member of the community should help all law enforcement agencies, such as the Police and ICAC, to maintain law and order and to discover and apprehend offenders. This does not mean that members of the public should put themselves at risk when with a violent criminal, but it does mean that they should:
- abide by the law
- take proper precautions to prevent crime - for instance, by making sure that their home and personal property are kept secure
- report crime, corruption and any suspicious circumstances- such as persons loitering in the vicinity of a building
- be co-operative when asked to help the police or other law enforcement agencies
- give any assistance they reasonably can at an incident when asked to do so by the police or other law enforcement agencies
- come forward as a witness
2. The victim's right to be treated with courtesy and respect
Members of the law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, court staff, counsel, and other persons dealing with victims of crime shall at all times treat them with courtesy, compassion, sensitivity and respect for their personal dignity and privacy.
3. The victim's right to have a proper response to complaints of crime
Complaints of crime shall be responded to promptly by the law enforcement agencies, which shall provide fair, proficient and professional investigation of every report of crime.
4. The victim's right to information-reporting the crime
Victims shall be provided with the name, rank, service number and contact telephone number of the officer in charge of the case. Upon request, victims shall be provided with a copy of any statement they make. Members of the law enforcement agencies and health and social services personnel shall inform victims as soon as is practicable of the services and remedies available to them. This will include, where appropriate, information regarding criminal injuries compensation, legal aid, social welfare and health services.
5. The victim's right to information - investigation and prosecution
So far as can be done without prejudicing the progress or outcome, victims of crime shall be kept fully informed of the progress of the case. If a decision is made not to prosecute, victims shall be told of that decision. Where prosecution is proceeding, victims shall be told about the steps which follow in the prosecution process, the progress of the investigation, the role of victims as witnesses in the prosecution of the offence, the date and place of the hearing of the proceedings, and the final disposal of the case, including the outcome of any appeal. Victims shall have the right to ask to be notified of the offender's pending release, or escape, from penal custody, provided that the victims shall have given the Commissioner of Correctional Services their current address and the telephone number.
6. The victim's right to proper facilities at court
Victims who have to give evidence in court shall not be made to feel intimidated by the experience. There shall be clear signposting in every court premises, and a clearly marked reception or information point. There shall be adequate accommodation and facilities for victims and other witnesses while they are waiting at the court premises.
7. The victim's right to be heard
Members of the law enforcement agencies and prosecuting counsel involved in advising on, and prosecution of, the case shall inform themselves of the victim's circumstances and their views on prosecution. Prosecuting counsel shall bring to the attention of the court the victims' circumstances and views whenever appropriate.
8. The victim's right to seek protection
Victims shall be informed of their right to ask for protection. The Witness Protection Programme shall be widely publicised to ensure that victims are aware of the Programme's provisions.
9. The victim's right to privacy and confidentiality
All those involved in the criminal justice system, from police officer to judiciary staff, shall respect the victim's right to privacy and confidentiality. Victims are no longer required to provide their addresses when giving evidence in court. In cases involving certain sexual offences, there is a statutory prohibition on publishing or broadcasting anything likely to identify the victim. In cases where victims are justifiably apprehensive as to what may happen to them or their family or friends if they give evidence in open court, or in respect of offences of sexual abuse, an application can be made to the judge hearing the case for the victim to testify from outside the court by way of a video link.
10. The victim's right to prompt return of property
Law enforcement agencies and the courts shall return as promptly as possible any property belonging to victims which has been held for evidentiary purposes.
11. The victim's right to support and after-care
Victims shall be provided with medical care after the offence, and where it helps (such as in cases of sexual assault or abuse), law enforcement agencies shall put the victims in touch with the appropriate agency (whether medical, social or any other kind of assistance) and stay in touch with the victims as long as is reasonably required.
12. The victim's right to seek compensation
Victims shall have the right to seek redress by way of civil proceedings under appropriate circumstances. Victims shall have the right to seek compensation under the Criminal and Law Enforcement Injuries Compensation Scheme, and the court has the power to order a convicted offender to compensate the victim.