Legislation overview: Assistance for victims of crime

 

The Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) assists people who have been injured by the criminal acts of others. Victims can apply to VOCAT for assistance, sue the offender for damages in a civil action, or ask the court hearing the criminal case to order the offender to pay damages.

Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996

The Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic) (“VOCA Act”) established the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT). The Act applies to applications for assistance lodged after 1 July 1997 regardless of when the crime occurred (see cl 5 sch 1).

Victims of Crime Assistance (Amendment) Act 2000

The Victims of Crime Assistance (Amendment) Act 2000 (Vic) applies to crimes committed on or after 1 July 2000 to 30 June 2007, and also has retrospective application for some victims of childhood sexual assault. This amending Act reinstated compensation for pain and suffering (now called “special financial assistance”) to primary victims. They are no longer limited to just claiming expenses (e.g. medical expenses and loss of earnings), as had been the case since 1 July 1997.

The other important change brought about by the 2000 amending Act is that a victim does not have to have suffered a diagnosable injury; they may qualify for special financial assistance if they have a “significant adverse effect” as a result of the violence (e.g. trauma or distress).

Victims of Crime Assistance Amendment Act 2007

The Victims of Crime Assistance Amendment Act 2007 (Vic) increased the amount of special financial assistance that can be awarded for crimes committed on or after 1 July 2007.

Under the 2000 legislation, primary victims are entitled to receive special financial assistance up to $7,500.

Under the 2007 legislation, primary victims are entitled to receive special financial assistance up to $10,000.

The amount awarded in either case depends on:

the category of the act of violence or crime (as set out in the regulations); and

the extent of the “injury” or “significant adverse effect” as a result of the crime.