Victim Impact Statements (WA)
In Western Australia, if someone is convicted of personal offences or domestic and family violence offences, the victim has the opportunity to submit a Victim Impact Statement (VIS). This statement outlines the physical, emotional, or mental harm they have experienced as a result of the crime. The right to provide a VIS is granted by the Sentencing Act 1995. This page deals with victim impact statements in WA.
Who is a victim?
A victim is someone who has suffered harm, loss, or damage as a direct consequence of an offence, regardless of whether the offender could have reasonably anticipated the harm, loss, or damage. In cases where the offence results in a fatality, a victim can be any immediate family member of the deceased.
What is in a victim impact statement?
A Victim Impact Statement (VIS) can provide various details, including physical injuries, the impact of the offence on the victim’s relationships, employment, or social life, as well as the financial consequences of the offence, a comparison of life before and after the crime, information about the life of a deceased person and the impact of their loss on other, or any other relevant information.
A VIS can be prepared by the victim or by a representative on their behalf if this is necessary due to age or impaired capacity. It may also include supporting documents, such as medical reports or photographs.
What is not in a victim impact statement
There are certain restrictions regarding the information that should not be included in a VIS. This includes the offender’s criminal history, any medical conditions the victim has that are not supported by documentation, factual inaccuracies, opinions about the offender’s character, or recommendations about the offender’s sentencing.
A court can exclude any part of a VIS that it deems inadmissible.
Presenting a VIS in court
In the process of submitting a VIS, three copies are provided to the court: one for the judge or magistrate, one for the prosecutor, and one for the offender’s lawyer.
If a Victim Impact Statement is not produced, this does not indicate that the offence had a minimal or no impact on the victim.
The person who wrote the VIS can choose to read it to the court or have the prosecutor read it on their behalf.
If the author decides to read it themselves, the court can take certain measures such as ensuring the offender is not in view of the reader, excluding certain people from the court, providing emotional support to the reader, or transmitting the reading of the VIS via an audio-visual link if the reader prefers to do so outside of the courtroom.
Once the offender is sentenced, the court must provide a copy of any VIS that has been submitted to the court to the Prisoners Review Board.
Other sentencing considerations
When deciding on an appropriate sentence, the sentencing judge or magistrate must consider various factors, including but not limited to:
• The nature and severity of the offence, as well as its prevalence;
• Aggravating circumstances;
• Mitigating circumstances;
• The offender’s personal circumstances, including their background, employment, family, and health;
• Whether and when the offender pleaded guilty;
• The offender’s level of cooperation with the authorities;
• The offender’s explanation for their behaviour;
• Any signs of remorse displayed by the offender, as well as their likelihood of reoffending;
• Any rehabilitation efforts undertaken by the offender;
• Any previous convictions and their similarity to the current offence;
• Any damage, loss, or harm caused by the offence.
Individuals who have been victims of crime, their immediate family members, parents, or guardians have the right to receive information about prisoners who have been convicted of specific offences, such as sexual or violent crimes.
When a prisoner is eligible for parole, these people are permitted to express their concerns and views to the Prisoners Review Board during the parole application review process. The submission may include the victim’s opinion on how the prisoner’s release could impact them and may suggest conditions that should be imposed on the prisoner if they are released.
It is essential to note that the submission must not be shared with the prisoner or their representative. Victims may also register with the Victim Notification Register to receive updates regarding the offender’s parole hearings.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.