October 7, 2015  |  Second reading speech

Victims of Crime Commissioner Bill 2015

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie)—It is my pleasure to rise to speak on the Victims of Crime Commissioner Bill 2015. I welcome the contribution by the member for Hawthorn and acknowledge that the previous government put the commissioner into this position. The government is now codifying and putting the relevant legislation around that role as well as formally recognising the Victims of Crime Consultative Committee. 

Firstly, the member for Hawthorn rightly raised that recently he was handed some house amendments by the Attorney-General. I managed to have a quick conversation with the Attorney-General, who has assured me and asked that I pass on to the house that the house amendments are very much non-controversial. If anything, they are just some consequential amendments that came about through some consultation with the Supreme Court. 

Essentially the amendments will make it clear that a reserve judicial officer can be appointed as a member of the Victims of Crime Consultative Committee. These amendments are in response to a matter raised by the Supreme Court. I believe the Chief Justice was privy to some of this consultation. The court was concerned that under the bill as it had been drafted it was unclear as to whether a reserve judge could be appointed as a member of the committee. 

Clause 38(2) lists the current judicial members of the committee, which include judges of the Supreme and County courts, a magistrate of the Magistrates Court, a coroner of the Coroners Court and a magistrate of the Victims of Crime Tribunal. The list does not presently specifically include reserve judges, reserve magistrates or reserve coroners, which are fairly common. These amendments will make it very clear that a reserve judge, magistrate or coroner is eligible to serve as a member of the committee. That should allay any fears in terms of the house amendments. 

Like the member for Hawthorn, I would also like to pay my respects to my predecessor as the member for Niddrie who is also a former Attorney-General. The legislation we have before us today has come about from a long line of reforms. The former Attorney-General and member for Niddrie, Rob Hulls, introduced the Victims Charter Act 2006, which provided for the rights of victims in relation to matters concerning the justice system. 

We hear of the high-profile cases. When you are elected to Parliament as a local member you do not think about the criminal justice system in that role, but on several occasions now I have had family members come to speak to me about it. One family member actually wrote a book on her experience of the criminal justice system following her son’s death. She never expected the pretty much adversarial nature of the court process and the almost lack of understanding that can sometimes be involved after a family member has tragically passed away through horrendous circumstances. 

Nothing quite prepares a family member—when they have never been in court before and that is their first experience—for seeing the offender in the dock and the defence counsel representing that offender and the prosecution performing their role. I can only imagine what it must be like. In a couple of circumstances I have dealt with people in relation to whom the crimes occurred 20 years ago, and yet the family members are very much still dealing with them. 

Having a victims of crime commissioner and a consultative committee is very important. Through this process victims and their families will essentially have a place to go where they can be recognised for what they have been through and get an understanding of where they can seek assistance. However, in his second-reading speech the Attorney-General made it very clear that the role of the commissioner will not be to search in every nook and cranny to investigate every case where a victim of crime or family member believes there has been a miscarriage of justice, but rather to have an approach where, in working with the consultative committee, they can gain an overview of the criminal justice system to see if there are any gaps where future reform may be needed. The commissioner will also be required to prepare an annual report highlighting some of the work they have done. 

The previous government appointed Mr Greg Davies as the state’s first victims of crime commissioner. He has had an extensive history with Victoria Police, and many people would know that he was a high-profile secretary of the Police Association. He is fulfilling the role, but this legislation will essentially help him to get a better understanding of it. The Minister for Police is in the chamber today. He works very closely with the victims of crime commissioner, Mr Davies, and the government of the day going forward, no matter of which persuasion, will always be very keen to support Mr Davies in his role and to ensure that any injustices he comes across in terms of a matter are addressed accordingly. 

There was one part in the second-reading speech of the Attorney-General that I want to highlight, because it is important we codify exactly what the role of the victims of crime commissioner is, which is what this legislation is about. The Attorney-General said: 

Our intention is that the commissioner will focus on the big-picture issues that affect significant numbers of victims. The commissioner’s role will extend beyond the consideration of the actual trial process and into the broader victims service system. 

The commissioner will of course receive complaints from individual victims of crime. These individual complaints will assist the commissioner to identify the issues that are affecting victims of crime, and to target his inquiries at the right issues. Where possible the commissioner will provide advice and information to individual victims of crime. 

When you look at what the Andrews Labor government is doing, though, you see that there is the victims of crime commissioner and there is also the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Last night I received my Law Institute Journal

An honourable member interjected. 

Mr CARROLL—It does become essential reading when you are speaking on justice bills, I have to say. This one is not about the Attorney-General. Probably more importantly, its cover says: 

Every week in Australia a woman is murdered by her partner or ex-partner 

When talking about victims of crime there can be no greater focus than on family and family members involved in domestic violence. The Andrews Labor government has Australia’s first minister responsible for the prevention of family violence and has established a royal commission, which the Premier as opposition leader sought to establish. Even as opposition leader he committed to implementing every recommendation that comes out of that royal commission. Marcia Neave, the commissioner, is doing her work at the moment, and the recommendations of the royal commission will come through. 

I was reading the Law Institute Journal last night. There is a very good article in it headed ‘Let the sentence fit the crime’ that goes through a series of Court of Appeal precedents in the area of family violence and talks about some of the cases. Some of them are truly harrowing, and it is something I am learning more about every day. The break-up of a relationship can send some men wild. They cannot handle the break-up, they rob their former partner and they physically and emotionally abuse them. I commend the Law Institute of Victoria for the work it has done in this article to highlight this. 

I finish by saying that this legislation is essential to give codification to the role of the victims of crime commissioner and the consultative committee. In my role as Parliamentary Secretary for Justice I welcome working with Mr Davies and the consultative committee. I think the Attorney-General has done a good job. The bill has bipartisan support. Going forward, I believe this is an essential role in which we are following other states and jurisdictions.