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VICTIMS OF CRIME COMPENSATION

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If you or someone you know has been the victim of crime, you understand that managing the impacts of that experience can feel like an extraordinary task. Whether domestic violence, family violence, sexual abuse or other sexual offences, or psychological abuse, the complicated emotions that stem from surviving an act of violence can feel overwhelming, particularly for young people, and it can be difficult to know who to turn to for help.

If you have suffered from bodily harm, loss of earnings, psychological injuries or otherwise as a result of an act of violence or criminal offence, you may be entitled to financial assistance or compensation. We understand the confusion that comes with navigating court processes, filling out piles of application forms, and figuring out how to receive the compensation and financial assistance you require. 

Am I entitled to victims of crime compensation?

Victims of crime compensation entitlements differ across Australia, depending on the State you are in and the support services available in your jurisdiction.

Compensation following an act of violence can be sought in a number of ways. One is via civil litigation, and another is through the victim’s support service available in your jurisdiction.

In NSW, entitlement to victim’s of crime support is available to the following under the NSW Victims Support Scheme:

  1. Primary victims Рif you are the direct victim who has suffered physical or psychological injury as a result of a criminal act of violence against you, or a person who is otherwise involved in interfering with the carrying out of violent crime;
  2. Secondary victims – those who have witnessed a violent crime (who are entitled to counselling services); and
  3. Family victims – those who are the immediate family members of a homicide victim.

An explanation of the counselling services and financial assistance schemes available to each category is explored in more detail below. For a confidential discussion or if you would like further information regarding the support services that would suit your matter, contact our expert personal injury lawyers today.

Primary victims 

Under the NSW Victims Support Scheme, primary victims of violent crimes are entitled to the following (subject to time limits for any financial assistance):

  1. 22 hours of free counselling, with the option for more where required;
  2. Financial assistance to meet immediate needs of victims, up to $5,000 to assist with any urgent expenses;
  3. Ongoing financial assistance to help with economic losses or out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the act of violence (including loss of earnings, medical expenses, justice-related expenses and compensation for lost or damaged items such as clothing).
  4. Recognition payments – to recognise the trauma experienced by victims of violent crime, and range from $1,500 to $15,000.

Under the Scheme, any parent, step-parent or guardian of a primary victim who is a child is also entitled to certain financial assistance for immediate needs and financial loss as a result of the crime, as a related victim. 

Secondary victims 

Secondary victims are not entitled to financial assistance or recognition payments, but are entitled to counselling services of up to 22 hours.

Family victims 

Family victims include a spouse, primary carer (including parent, step-parent or guardian), dependant, or sibling of a victim of a homicide. Under the Scheme, family victims are entitled to the following:

  1. counselling services;
  2. financial assistance for immediate needs;
  3. financial assistance for justice-related expenses (legal costs); and
  4. financial assistance for the funeral of the primary victim.

Civil Litigation

An alternative to financial assistance or counselling services through a victims support services scheme is to pursue a compensation claim by bringing a court case against the perpetrator. While this is a more complex and costly way to seek compensation for any loss or damage suffered as a result of the crime, there are no limits on the amount of a civil compensation claim.

In order to pursue a civil compensation claim, it is critical that you obtain sound legal advice and representation to ensure the best outcome for you. Given the emotional stress involved in court cases and the often complex legal processes required to determine civil compensation claims, representation is vital to ensure that you are well-equipped to receive the compensation you deserve.

In addition, limitation periods applicable in each Australian jurisdiction mean that time limits apply to making of civil claims for personal injury, including compensation claims for bodily harm, psychological injuries, sexual abuse, domestic violence and acts of violence generally. 

While civil litigation can be costly, many civil compensation claims are resolved through a settlement negotiation prior to the matter being heard in Court or any court processes being engaged. Our legal team is available to guide you through this process with expert legal advice, to represent you in any correspondence and negotiations, and to fight for your right to any criminal injuries compensation to which you are entitled.

Our personal injury lawyers are experienced in managing the civil compensation claims process, including representing you in any settlement negotiations and obtaining court support, where settlement negotiations fail. We can also advise you as to whether going through court processes, which are often emotional and confusing, is right for you.

Why pursue a civil compensation claim as a victim of crime?

There are a few advantages to civil compensation claims. First, the standard of proof required to prove a criminal offence occurred is lower in civil proceedings. You only need to show it is more likely than not that the criminal offence or act of violence took place. Secondly, civil litigation allows victims of violent crime to seek compensation in the form of damages. These damages are not limited in the way financial assistance from victims support services are. Thirdly, civil compensation claims can be made against an employer or institution if it can be proven that the organisation was negligent in allowing the act of violence to take place. This often increases the compensation available to victims of violent crime.

Must the perpetrator have been convicted of a criminal offence?

No. A civil claim is entirely separate to criminal proceedings in a criminal court, and you may prove a civil claim even in the absence of any criminal offence being proven in a magistrates court. A charge or conviction, or evidence of a police investigation will however assist in establishing a civil compensation claim.

Where do I start if I believe I have a compensation claim as a victim of violent crime?

For advice on whether a compensation claim might be right for you and for more information on our legal services, please contact our law firm for a free consultation. We can guide you through how the court processes might apply to your matter, and whether you may be entitled to make a compensation claim for any acts of violence committed against you.

Victims of crime compensation – What can I claim?

If a civil claim is successful in establishing liability, a victim of violent crime is entitled to seek compensation for damages for a range of loss and/or damage, provided that loss or damage is also proven. These include pain and suffering, loss of earnings, compensation for psychological injury, any medical or treatment costs, among others. For a confidential discussion of what compensation you may be entitled to, contact our experienced lawyers today.

Disclaimer

The above is general legal information and should not be considered legal advice. You should speak with one of our migration lawyers for legal advice tailored to your specific legal matter. The courts and tribunals deal with matters on a case by case basis. It should also be noted that there may be delays due to COVID-19.

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Frequently Asked Questions.

If you are entitled to support under the Scheme, no time limit applies for applications for counselling services. In respect of most financial assistance or recognition payments, there is a two-year time limit from the date of the violent crime. If you were under the age of 18 at the time of the violent crime, the two-year time limit commences from the date you turn 18. Some payments have more lenient time limits, for example for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, or crimes against young people.

This depends on the financial assistance to which you are entitled. Financial support available includes:

  1. Financial assistance for immediate needs: to assist with urgent needs such as moving house, installing alarms or changing locks, and emergency medical expenses, you will be entitled to up to $5,000, or  $9,500 for funeral expenses.
  2. Financial assistance for economic loss: to assist with lost income, ongoing medical expenses, justice-related expenses and loss/damage to items, you will be entitled to up to $30,000, with individual limits on specific categories of expenses.
  3. Recognition payments: in recognition of the trauma associated with the violent crime, payment will depend on the act of violence itself. These payments range from $1500 to $15,000.

Application forms can be found at www.victimsservices.justice.nsw.gov.au. For information and support, please contact the NSW Department of Communities and Justice on 1800 633 063. Alternatively, contact our team of experts for a free honest consultation about your entitlements under the Scheme or otherwise.

This will depend on the assistance you seek. For financial assistance applications, medical reports, police reports and relevant invoices must generally accompany your application forms. Where financial loss (such as loss of income) is sought, you will often need to provide a letter from your employer, and an explanation of how the financial loss relates to the act of violence. This may come in the form of a victim impact statement, for example.

You will not be entitled to seek assistance under the NSW Scheme, however similar schemes exist in other jurisdictions including Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. Please seek legal advice for more information on the support services available in your State.

The Aboriginal Legal Service is available to those identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent. Any victim of domestic violence, family violence, or other act of violence who identifies as such, should consult with the Aboriginal Legal Service. Alternatively, our legal team is well-equipped to provide tailored, sensitive legal advice about the victims support services available to you. Legal Aid is also available in all Australian States.

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