Embargoed until 10 p.m. (AEDT) Wednesday 24 October 2018
A report released today recommends improvements to the system for enforcing restitution and compensation orders against offenders.
Victims of crime in Victoria are entitled to seek restitution or compensation for loss of property or injury caused by an offender. However, having a right to seek offender-paid compensation does not mean a victim will receive a payment, even if an order is made in their favour.
If an offender does not pay, a victim must initiate and pay for enforcement in a separate civil legal action, a process that can be difficult and costly. In the 10 years to 2016–17 in Victoria, less than 2% of compensation orders had enforcement actions recorded against them.
Following an extensive review, the Sentencing Advisory Council has recommended that the Victorian Government consider introducing state civil enforcement of orders for restitution and compensation on behalf of victims.
The Sentencing Advisory Council also recommends a range of reforms to improve offender-paid compensation, including:
- providing consistent and timely information to victims on their compensation options
- ensuring consistent use of existing powers to restrain offenders’ assets so that these can be used to pay restitution or compensation
- waiving fees (where possible) to assist victims of crime to enforce their orders
- establishing a specialist legal service for victims of crime.
The Sentencing Advisory Council was asked to advise on whether restitution and compensation orders – currently imposed in addition to an offender’s sentence – should become sentencing orders in their own right. It recommends that restitution and compensation orders should remain orders made in addition to an offender’s sentence and that they not become sentencing orders.
Instead, the Sentencing Advisory Council recommends strengthening the existing 'hybrid' model for making and enforcing restitution and compensation orders. This model incorporates elements of the civil and criminal systems and builds on the current legal framework, providing significant practical benefits for victims of crime.
Sentencing Advisory Council Chair Professor Arie Freiberg said that victims’ experiences would be improved if these practical changes were made to the system for restitution and compensation orders. However, he advised that even if these recommendations are accepted and implemented, many offenders do not have the financial resources to pay compensation to their victims:
‘These recommendations aim to improve practical outcomes for victims of crime, by providing information, assistance and government support in enforcing judgment debts arising from restitution and compensation orders’, he said.
‘The unfortunate reality is that most offenders do not have the financial resources to adequately compensate their victims. The Council’s recommendations, however, intend to ensure that those offenders with the means to do so contribute to repairing the damage they have caused.’
‘Victims of crime need legal assistance to assess the best option for compensation in their particular circumstances, and we encourage the government to consider establishing a victims’ legal service to provide that comprehensive and necessary legal advice.’
Offender-paid compensation: a financial payment ordered under the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) to compensate a victim for a crime, to be paid by the offender.
Restitution: an order to return to the victim their stolen property, or money from the sale of their stolen property.
Compensation: an order for payment of money to compensate the victim for pain, suffering, property loss, damage or expenses incurred as a result of an offence.