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Commission Calls for Recognition of Victims’

Human Rights Commission

07 September 2006

Commission Calls for Legal Recognition of Victims’ Rights

Victims’ rights must be legally recognised in order to ensure their empowerment and participation in the criminal justice system, the Human Rights Commission told the Justice and Electoral Select Committee today.

The Commission was presenting its submission on the Inquiry into the Place of Victims in the Criminal Justice System.

“Victims should be made an integral part of the criminal justice process, not merely peripheral players,” Chief Commissioner, Rosslyn Noonan said today.

The Commission argued that the rights of victims would be improved if:  There was a more cohesive legislative framework dealing with victims’ rights.  Victims’ access to necessary services was ensured.  There was a more equitable system for payment of compensation by the State and restitution by the individual.  Restorative justice programmes were promoted.

“Changes brought about by the Victims’Rights Act 2002 did not go far enough. The provision of services and the way in which victims are treated should be mandatory rather than discretionary,”Ms Noonan said today.

“If victims are to be recognised as full participants in the criminal justice process, legislative intervention is necessary.”

Under the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2001, compensation is not available for mental trauma if it does not stem from physical injury. This means that victims of crime, such as bank tellers who experience a hold-up, and the families of murder victims are not entitled to anything for their emotional trauma.

“A more consistent and equitable system is required and consideration should be given to making restitution to the victims by offenders a more regular feature of sentencing.”

The value of restorative justice programmes was also emphasised in the Commission’s submission.

The Commission argued that victims should have the opportunity to be legally represented in court proceedings if they wish, emphasising that this can and must be done in a way that reinforces the fundamental right of the offender to a fair trial.

“While developing a comprehensive approach to victims, it is timely to restate that apprehending, prosecuting, convicting and punishing must remain the responsibility of the State and our independent judicial system. This relieves individuals, families and friends of the burden of retribution which is at the heart of blood feuds in some past and present day societies.”

ENDS


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