Victim Impact Statements (WA)
When a person is sentenced for personal offences or domestic and family violence offences in Western Australia, 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 1995.
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 as a direct result of the offence, whether or not that injury, loss or damage was reasonably foreseeable by the offender. Where the offence results in a death, a victim can be any member of the immediate family of the deceased 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;
- a recommendation about the offender’s sentencing.
A court can rule inadmissible the whole or any part of a VIS.
Presenting a VIS in court
Three copies of a VIS are provided to the court: one to the judge or magistrate, one to the prosecutor and one to the offender’s lawyer.
If no VIS is produced, this does not mean the offence caused little or no harm to the victim.
The person who prepared the VIS can read it to the court, or 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.
After sentencing the offender, the court must provide the Prisoners Review Board with a copy of any VIS given to the court.
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.
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 people are permitted to provide their views and concerns to the Prisoners Review Board when it considers the parole application. The submission can give the victim’s opinion on the effect the release of the prisoner would have on the victim and/or suggest the conditions that should apply to the prisoner if released. The submission must not be given to the prisoner or their representative.
A victim can register with the Victim Notification Register to be contacted about parole hearings for the offender.
For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.