7 August 2023
The ACT Human Rights Commission acknowledges the Board of Inquiry’s important work in facilitating public discourse about the criminal justice system and ensuring transparency and accountability of justice agencies. The Commission welcomes the Board’s final report into the ACT Criminal Justice System, including the finding that Victims of Crime Commissioner (VOCC) Heidi Yates acted in accordance with her statutory duties in providing support and assistance.
We also welcome the Board’s finding that Commissioner Yates was “subjected to a degree of unjustified public criticism because of a general lack of understanding about what the Victims of Crime Act 1994 required her to do”.
The VOCC and Victim Support ACT have statutory responsibilities to provide support, advocacy and financial assistance to victims of crime in the Territory, in recognition of the fact that victim-survivor engagement with the justice system can be a complex, protracted and harrowing experience.
Our services are provided to victims throughout police investigations and court proceedings. We also assist victims whose matters do not come before the justice system — for example, where no charges are laid, or when an alleged offender is deceased, cannot be identified, or is not criminally responsible due to age or mental impairment.
In the 2022-23 financial year, Victim Support ACT supported more than 3,000 victims of crime, whose experiences ranged from theft, personal violence offences, sexual offences, and road offences to the manslaughter or murder of their loved ones. In the last five years, Victim Support ACT service provision has grown exponentially, including a 110 per cent increase in community members receiving support.
Commissioner Yates and Victim Support ACT remain committed to working with our justice agency partners to ensure that the rights of all people engaged with the criminal justice system are appropriately balanced.
We will review and carefully consider the whole of the report’s findings and recommendations, including Recommendation 2, which relates to the Victims of Crime Act 1994.
The VOCC and Victim Support ACT continue to be available to respond to community need. We encourage community members impacted by crime to contact our service for assistance on 02 6205 2066 or via VictimSupportIntake@act.gov.au
Christine Kearney, M 0466 861451