Victims suffering injury from a violent crime may recover their losses by pursuing statutory rights under motor accident compensation schemes, a common law claim for damages or, if the injury was employment related, through workers compensation.
Many victims however, do not have recourse through such avenues or a perpetrator will not have the means to compensate a justified claim. In such cases, a victim may obtain financial assistance through the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT).
Applicants may be reimbursed for medical and other expenses outlaid, or likely to be incurred in the future, as a result of the crime, to assist in their recovery. The scheme enables victims to recover financial assistance that cannot be obtained through other means. The perpetrator need not be arrested, charged or convicted for assistance to be paid.
To obtain assistance, an ‘act of violence’ defined under the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic) must have occurred.
An act of violence is a criminal act or series of related criminal acts that have occurred in Victoria and have directly resulted in injury or death. Relevant offences include:
- An offence punishable on conviction by imprisonment that involves an assault on or injury or a threat of injury to a person;
- Common law rape or assault with intent to rape, indecent assault, incest, and other sexual offences;
- Stalking, child stealing or kidnapping;
- Conspiring to commit any of the above offences.
An eligible person must have suffered injury or financial loss as a direct result of the violence and may be a primary victim (the person against whom the act of violence is committed), a secondary victim (a person injured as a result of witnessing an act of violence or assisting a primary victim), or a related victim (a dependant, close family member or person in an intimate relationship with a primary victim who dies from the act of violence).
Applying for assistance
The violent act must be reported to the police before an application will be considered – VOCAT relies primarily upon the police report when assessing an application and will enquire about the alleged crime and whether the applicant (or deceased primary victim) has a criminal history.
The applicant must provide evidence of the injury or loss sustained. An injury includes:
- Actual physical injury;
- Mental illness or disorder or an exacerbation of an existing illness or disorder;
For a primary or secondary victim, it will generally be sufficient evidence that treatment or counselling is necessary. Other supporting documentation should be filed including evidence from a health professional to substantiate and quantify the need for future treatment. A Statement of Claim is also required.
To receive maximum assistance, it is important that your application is propery supported by relevant material. Our lawyers have vast experience in preparing such claims and will advise and assist you in gathering the necessary information.
Rarely, if there has been no prosecution for the crime or the charges against an offender dismissed or withdrawn, VOCAT may investigate further to confirm that an act of violence has occurred. In this case, the offender may be notified and given an opportunity to contest the allegations at a hearing. In doing so, VOCAT must notify the parties in writing and there will be an opportunity to object to the proposed hearing. Mindful of the distress that this may cause a victim, this only occurs in limited circumstances. Our lawyers will advise appropriately should such a situation arise.
Determining your application
An application may be determined in your absence or you may appear before a Tribunal Member to have your voice heard. Most applications are determined ‘on the papers’ without a hearing. You may be required to attend a hearing if VOCAT is not satisfied on the documents provided that an act of violence has occurred.
Once a decision is made, you will be notified in writing.
Reviewing a decision
If you are not happy with VOCAT’s decision, it may be reviewed through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal within 28 days of receiving the determination. In such a case, our lawyers will advise on the merits of challenging the decision and, if appropriate, assist you in the review process.
Our lawyers have represented and assisted many victims to pursue their rights to financial assistance and will handle your matter with compassion and understanding. We acknowledge that money cannot replace the physical or emotional pain suffered, however we can assist you in obtaining financial support to help you move forward.