Victim Impact Statements (Vic)
When a person is sentenced for personal offences or domestic and family violence offences in Victoria, 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 Sentencing Act 1991.
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 injury, loss or damage (including grief, distress, trauma or other significant adverse effect) as a direct result of the offence, whether or not that injury, loss or damage was reasonably foreseeable by the offender.
What is in a Victim Impact Statement?
The VIS contains details of the impact if the offence, such as injury, loss or damage, suffered as a direct result of the offence.
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 VIS in court
If a VIS has been tendered to a court, the court must consider the statement before it sentences the offender. If no VIS is tendered, this does not mean the offence caused little or no harm to the victim. A copy of the VIS must be provided to the offender or their lawyer.
The offender or prosecutor can call a victim who has made a VIS, or a person who has made a VIS on behalf of a victim, or a medical expert who made a medical report for a VIS, to give evidence. This person can be cross-examined and re-examined.
The victim, or a person who has made a VIS on behalf of a victim, can call a witness to give evidence on any matter contained in the VIS or in a medical report attached to it. A witness can be cross-examined and re-examined.
The victim can read their VIS in court, or have a nominated person or the prosecutor read it for them.
If the reader or prosecutor applies, or if it decides itself, the court can arrange for:
- the VIS to be read aloud from a place other than the courtroom by CCTV or other means;
- screens to remove the reader from the direct line of vision of the offender;
- a support person for the reader, chosen by the reader, to be beside the reader for emotional support while they read the statement aloud;
- only people specified by the court to be present while the VIS is read;
- lawyers to not be in robes.
These same alternative arrangements can be made for the examination or cross-examination of the victim or other person who gives evidence.
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 Corrections Act 1986, a victim of serious crime (such as armed robbery, sexual offences or murder) or the victim’s immediate family member, or someone connected to the crime, has a right to receive information about the offender. When the offender is up for parole, each of those people with a right to information is permitted to provide a submission to the parole board when it considers the parole application.
For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.