Victim and Witness Rights

Part 1: Victims of Crime ACT 1994

Section 4: Governing Principles

Why do I need to know about the Governing Principles?
Any person who exercises a function in the administration of justice must have regard to these principles when dealing with someone who is a victim of crime [Victims of Crime Act 1994 (ACT) s5(1)].

The Victims of Crime Commissioner monitors and promotes compliance with the governing principles. The Commissioner also deals with complaints relating to non-compliance with these principles [Victims of Crime Act 1994 (ACT) s11(c) – (d)]. Agencies must provide any documentation or information required by the Commissioner to resolve a complaint [Victims of Crime Act 1994 (ACT) s12(2)]. Formal complaints are referred to a relevant complaints entity by the Commissioner [Victims of Crime Act 1994 (ACT) s12(4)].

What are the Governing Principles?
Section 4 stipulates that in the administration of justice, the following principles are to, as far as practicable and appropriate, govern the treatment of victims. In addition to the principles below, people who are the victim of a crime are also entitled to have their human rights considered and protected.

All Stages of the Criminal Justice Process

a) A victim should be dealt with at all times in a sympathetic, constructive and reassuring manner and with due regard to his or her personal situation, rights and dignity;
Investigation Stage
b) A victim should be informed at reasonable intervals (generally not exceeding one month) of the progress of police investigations concerning the relevant offence, except where such disclosure might jeopardise the investigation, and, in that case, the victim should be informed accordingly;
c) A victim should be informed of all the charges laid against the accused and of any modification of the charges;
Court Stage
d) A victim should be informed of any decision concerning the accused to accept a plea of guilty to a lesser charge or a guilty plea in return for a recommendation of leniency in sentencing;
e) A victim should be informed of any decision not to proceed with a charge against the accused;
f ) Where any property of the victim is held by the Crown for the purposes of investigation or evidence – inconvenience to the victim should be minimised and the property returned promptly;
g) A victim should be informed about the trial process and of the rights and responsibilities of witnesses;
h) A victim should be protected from unnecessary contact with the accused and defence witnesses during the course of the trial;
i) A victim’s residential address should be withheld unless court directs otherwise;
j) A victim should be relieved from appearing at preliminary hearings or committal proceedings unless the court directs otherwise;
Post Court
k) A victim should be given an explanation of the outcome of criminal proceedings and of any sentence and its implications;
l) A victim who is known to have expressed a concern about the need for protection from an offender should be informed of the offender’s impending release from custody.