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Victims Support Scheme (NSW)

Written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts. She also completed a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at the College of Law in Victoria. Fernanda practiced law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practiced in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016. Fernanda has strong interests in Indigenous and refugee law, human rights and law reform.

The Victims Rights and Support Act 2013 sets out the rights of victims of acts of violence in New South Wales. The act establishes the Victims Support Scheme, under which eligible victims can apply for financial assistance, counselling or a payment in recognition of the trauma they have suffered. The Victims Rights and Support Regulations 2013 set out the maximum amounts that can be awarded to different categories of victims for different types of losses.

The Victims Support Scheme exists to support and assist victims of violent crime to recover from the experience and to reimburse them for any expenses incurred as a result of the act of violence. The scheme provides for victims to be compensated for medical expenses, lost earnings, justice expenses and funeral expenses (where relevant). It does not extend to damage to property as the result of criminal acts.

What is an act of violence?

An act of violence is an act or series of acts that has occurred in the course of the commission of a criminal offence, has involved violent conduct and has resulted in injury or death (Section 19).

Who is eligible?

There are three different categories of victims who are eligible to make a claim under the Victims Support Scheme.

Primary victim

A person who suffers an injury or death as the direct result of an act of violence, is a primary victim. This includes person who was trying to prevent another person from committing a violent act, a person who was trying to help another person against whom the act was being committing or a person who was trying to arrest the person who was committing the act.

A primary victim can be awarded a total of $30,000 for economic losses, which may include loss of earnings, medical and dental expenses, justice expenses and damage to clothing or other personal effects during the act of violence. A primary victim can also be awarded up to $5,000 in financial assistance for immediate needs.

Secondary victim

A person who suffers an injury as the direct result of witnessing an act of violence that resulted in injury or death of another person, is a secondary victim. A secondary victim can also be a person who becomes injured as a result of subsequently learning of the act of violence if the person is the parent or guardian of the primary victim and the primary victim is aged under 18, provided the person did not commit the act of violence.

A secondary victim can be awarded up to $30,000 for economic losses.

Family victim

A person who is the immediate family member of a primary victim who has died as a direct result of an act of violence, is a family victim. A family victim may be the spouse, partner, parent, guardian, child or sibling of the primary victim.

A family victim can be awarded a total of up to $9,500 for funeral expenses and a total of up to $5,000 for expenses associated with criminal or coronial proceedings. A family victim can also be awarded up to $5,000 of financial assistance for immediate needs.

Who is not eligible?

A person is not eligible for support if:

  • They have received compensation awarded by a court;
  • The act arose as a consequence of a motor vehicle accident (with the exception of an intentional killing);
  • The act occurred when the person was engaged in criminal behaviour;
  • The act occurred while the person was a convicted inmate of a prison (unless there are exceptional circumstances).

What evidence do I need?

You must present evidence of any economic loss or immediate needs that you are claiming assistance for. This may include evidence of loss of earnings, medical or dental bills or justice expenses, such as the cost of preparing a victim impact statement.

Victims Support Scheme time limits

Any application to the Victims Support Scheme for financial support or a recognition payment must be made within two years of the act of violence, or if the victim is a child, within two years of their turning 18. However, an application for a recognition payment for domestic violence, child abuse or sexual assault can be made until up to 10 years after the act of violence.

Recovery from offenders

Where a person is awarded financial assistance or a recognition payment in respect of an act of violence under the Victims Support Scheme and a person is found guilty by a court in relation to the act of violence, the Commissioner for Victims Rights may make an order for restitution.

When this occurs, a notice of the restitution order must be served on the victim. The victim can lodge a written objection to the order within 28 days of the notice being served, setting out the grounds for the objection.

If you require legal advice or representation in a victims assistance matter or in any other legal matter please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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