Victim Impact Statement (VIS) (Qld)
When a person is sentenced for personal offences or domestic and family violence offences in Queensland, the victim can provide a Victim Impact Statement (VIS) about the physical, mental or emotional harm they have suffered as a result of the offending. This right is available under the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992.
The idea behind a VIS being read aloud in court by the victim is to provide them with a therapeutic benefit by allowing the victim to tell the court about the impact of the crime on their life.
Definition of victim
A victim is a person who has suffered harm:
- because a crime is committed against them;
- because they are a family member or dependant of a person who has died or suffered harm because a crime is committed against that person;
- as a direct result of intervening to help a person who has died or suffered harm because a crime is committed against that person.
What is in a Victim Impact Statement?
The VIS can include details of physical injuries; the impact of the crime on relationships, employment or social life; a financial impact; a comparison of life before and after the crime; if the crime resulted in a death, the life the person led and the impact of their loss; or any other information the victim considers important and relevant.
The VIS can be prepared by the victim or by another person because of the person’s age or impaired capacity. It can have supporting documents attached to it, such as medical reports or photographs.
A VIS must not include certain information, such as:
- details of the crime itself;
- an offender’s criminal history;
- any medical conditions without supporting documents;
- factual errors;
- an opinion about the character of the offender;
- offensive language.
Presenting a Victim Impact Statement in court
A prosecutor can refuse to permit a victim to give details of the harm caused if this is reasonable in the circumstances, considering:
- the interests of justice;
- whether allowing the details of the harm would unreasonably delay the sentencing;
- any other factor that could adversely affect the reasonableness or practicality of permitting details of the harm to be given.
If no details are given, this does not mean the offence caused little or no harm to the victim.
The prosecutor must decide what details are appropriate. The sentencing court decides if and how details are to be given. The VIS does not need to be read under oath or affirmation.
The person who prepared the VIS can read it to the court, or if they prefer, the prosecutor can do this. If the person who prepared the VIS opts to read it to the court, the court can arrange for:
- the offender to be out of the view of the reader;
- all people other than those specified be excluded;
- a person to provide emotional support to the reader (by being close to the reader and within their sight);
- the reader to read the VIS outside the courtroom and the reading be transmitted to the court via an audio-visual link.
Other sentencing considerations
The sentencing judge or magistrate must consider many other factors when determining an appropriate sentence. These include:
- the nature and seriousness of the offence and how prevalent it is;
- aggravating factors;
- mitigating factors;
- the offender’s personal circumstances, such as their background, employment, family and health;
- whether and how early the offender pleaded guilty;
- whether the offender co-operated with police;
- the offender’s explanation for their offending;
- any remorse shown by the offender, and their likelihood of reoffending;
- any rehabilitation efforts made by the offender;
- any prior convictions, and any similarity to the latest offending;
- any damage, loss or injury caused.
Under the Corrective Services Act 2006, a victim of crime, their immediate family member, or their parent or guardian, has a right to receive information about a prisoner convicted of certain offences, such as offences of violence or sexual offences. When the prisoner is up for parole, those “eligible persons” are permitted to provide their views and concerns to the parole board when it considers the parole application.
For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.