What is Victim’s Compensation?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In New South Wales, certain persons affected by criminal offences may apply for an award for compensation for their suffering from the State Government.

While courts may order defendants to pay compensation or “retribution” directly to victims as part of their penalty, they may be unable to meet these high costs, particularly where they have been ordered to serve prison time for an offence.

There may also be significant barriers in claiming compensation from those who commit serious crimes, or domestic and family violence offences.

Victims’ compensation schemes therefore exist to offer financial support to victims and their families and to provide some means of redressing the loss, damage or injury suffered as a result of crimes.

However, in 2013, following a lengthy review of the Victims’ Compensation Tribunal, the Victims Rights and Support Act 2013 was passed.

This Act abolished the Victims’ Compensation Tribunal and replaced it with the Victims’ Support Scheme, consolidating it with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The Act also resulted in major changes as to how compensation can be claimed, and the amounts of compensation that can be claimed.

These moves have been met with considerable backlash from victims, who claim that awards for compensation for criminal offences have been slashed under the new scheme.

However, the NSW Government has attempted to justify the changes, arguing that victims’ claims will be processed quicker under the new scheme.

So how does the new Support Scheme compare to the previous scheme?

How does the Victims’ Support Scheme work?

Victims and their families may lodge a claim to the Victims’ Support Scheme within 2 years of an alleged criminal offence.

Those deemed to be eligible are allocated a support co-ordinator, who is responsible for conducting an assessment and developing a care package, as well providing access to other support services.

This means that complainants avoid the trauma and expense of making a claim through the court system.

The main focus of the new scheme is not on financial compensation – rather, it is about facilitating easy access to support services such as counselling.

Care packages developed by a victim’s support co-ordinator generally consist of up to five types of assistance: information, support and referral, counselling, financial assistance for immediate needs, financial assistance for economic loss, and a recognition payment to acknowledge the suffering of victims.

The amounts that can be claimed are capped for each of these categories.

Further, the amount received under the recognition payment depends on the type of offence that was suffered.

For example, financially dependent family members of homicide victims may claim up to $15,000, while non-financially dependent parents of these victims can claim up to $7,500.

Smaller amounts can be claimed by victims of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm, sexual assault, indecent assault, robbery and other offences.

Victims are usually required to provide evidence or documentation in order to support their claims.

If a claim is rejected, a claimant is able to lodge an appeal within 28 days of the decision to the Commissioner, who will conduct an internal review of the claim.

If this appeal is unsuccessful, the claimant may lodge an appeal to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal in respect of a recognition payment.

Previously, claimants were able to lodge appeals to the District Court, however this option has now been removed.

How does the new scheme compare to the Victims’ Compensation Tribunal?

Victims and human rights advocates have slammed the new Victims’ Support Scheme, contending that their entitlements have been more than halved.

Sexual assault victim Katrina Keshishian has been particularly vocal in raising her concerns, alleging that her potential recognition payment had been slashed from up to $50,000 under the old scheme, to just $15,000 under the new scheme.

Miss Keshishian commenced her claim six years ago under the old compensation scheme following a brutal gang rape, but due to delays in processing and assessing her claim, the new laws applied retrospectively to determine her claim.

It’s estimated that up to 24,000 victims have had their compensation retrospectively affected by the new laws since 2013.

A host of community legal centres and support groups have also raised concerns about the new scheme, arguing that the tough documentary requirements that claimants must comply with makes it difficult for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to seek compensation, as they are often hesitant to report these types of matters to police.

Further, the new scheme imposes onerous time limitations as to when claims can be commenced, which are tougher than previous limits.

Under the new scheme, compensation claims must be lodged within 2 years of the alleged incident – however, victims of domestic and family violence have 10 years in which to lodge a claim for a restitution payment.

Claims for emotional and psychological abuse are also excluded under the new scheme unless they meet the definition of “assault,” for which victims may only claim $1,500.

The scheme’s focus on physical abuse also means that victims who have difficulty proving serious criminal offences which result in minimal visible injury, such as strangulation, may be excluded from claiming adequate compensation under the scheme.

Finally, while parents, step-parents and guardians are automatically entitled to recognition payments, the new scheme requires spouses, de-facto partners and children of victims to prove that they were financially dependent on the victim in order to claim a recognition payment.

This adds yet another burden to the already onerous task of claiming compensation, particularly where these people have suffered emotional distress and hardship following the loss of a family member.

Should victims have the right to compensation at all?

Over the years, the Victims’ Compensation Tribunal and the Victims’ Support Scheme have attracted criticism from leading politicians and lawyers.

This has mainly been directed towards the fact that the Tribunal does not allow for alleged perpetrators to play any role in the assessment of claims.

Under the schemes, claims for compensation can be approved even where alleged perpetrators have been found not guilty, or where no charges have been laid.

There have also been complaints about substantial awards being paid to complainants who had been dismissed as unreliable witnesses in court.

Accordingly, it has been suggested that false claims may be made by people in order to access compensation.

There have even been suggestions that complainants have made false complaints to access the scheme.

However, it’s important to approach these criticisms with caution.

Many persons who have sought compensation under the scheme are victims of domestic and family violence, and therefore face considerable hurdles in reporting abuse and pressing charges.

Further, victims of sexual assault such as Miss Keshishian often withdraw allegations as they are unable to bear the emotional burden of reliving the trauma under cross-examination.

Criticism has also centred upon the contention that the scheme is financially unviable.

This is further complicated by the fact that amounts recovered by the scheme from convicted offenders are miniscule, meaning that taxpayers are left to foot the majority of the bill.

Despite these concerns, there is no doubt that the scheme has assisted a significant number of victims, often from impoverished backgrounds or who have suffered lengthy periods of domestic violence, in getting their lives back on track and moving on following the commission of serious offences against them.

Many therefore see the scheme as an important component of the criminal justice system.

Author Image

About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Sydney’s Leading Firm of Criminal & Traffic Defence Lawyers.

21 Comments

  1. alina skimmings

    hi im notsure on what. to do, but my ex partner. has been jailed, for domestic violence, he has been sentenced since june 1 2015 dosent get out till nov 2016, i am wanting to apply for victims compensation, could u please help me, on what to do.

  2. P Ferguson

    I was bashed bitten and kicked by 3 females in March 2012. I still suffer from the physical and emotional affects. What would the prospects be of obtaining some form of compensation? Any advice would be appreciated.

  3. Michael

    Hi,
    I was assaulted by two men. Beaten up in front of security cameras at a venue. Police are assisting me and are investigating both men.
    I would like to know if I’m allegeable for any compensation for my injurys from this assault?

  4. michael boustani

    Hi I was a victim of a severe assault on the 19/06/2016 I have a broken nose fractured eye socket and a small brain hemerage and two missing teeth the offender has been charged and it’s going to court tomorrow what sort of financial help can I get I have a large dental bill I need physio for my neck and I don’t know when I’ll be back at work I have all documented info from the hospital police and my dentist.. any help is much appreciated to shine light on my situation

  5. Kate

    Hi, my situation is my 20yr old son was killed in a car accident in June 2014. The front seat passenger(intoxicated) pulled the steering wheel causing the car to roll, killing my son who was in the back seat. That person has been charged with manslaughter, interference with the driver, high range drink driving & dangerous driving causing death. After 5 adjourments & 3 different lawyers, he is pleading not guilty to the charges & is going to trial next year, close to the 3rd anniversary of my sons death. Compensation was mentioned to me by the Prosecution team but after reading this info & after this already prolonged process Im not so sure that I could battle on let alone be entitled to anything…can anyone give me some advice?

  6. Margie

    Hi there;

    I was emotionally and mentally tormented by my partner for over a year a he beat me so badly the last time i saw him. Cracked my ribs and beat me until i was put in hospital. I was charged with property damage during the altercation but, since then i have been informed that he has been charged with assault occasioning actual injury. I’m wondering if i can claim anything for all the ongoing medical bills, ambulance fees, time out of work, counseling etc.
    It’s had such a massive negative impact on my life.
    Any advice would be so greatly appreciated.

    Margie

  7. Belinda Browning

    Hi just wondering if it is to late. My avo was from 03/04/2003 and was for 5years from that date. Thank you

  8. Maria

    Hi,

    I am a victim of Domestic violence by my husband’s ex-wife. She punch me in the face while I am 8 weeks pregnant. I undergo counselling now but still I am still trying to recover with the trauma. I have anxiety now suffering from a psychological disorder. Would I be fit for a compensation?

  9. Debra Kefford

    Hi, my name is Debra Kefford 37 and a mum to 5 children ages 18-17-15-11-7! Last year on my 2 youngest were at home waiting for my mum to pick them up and take them to a SHINE performance, when a male reefed open my front screen door in which the kids dad was standing talking to my dad on the phone, then he’s pushed my 7 yr old daughter over whom is legally blind so her dad did what any dad would do and he ran resulting in him getting 19 stitches, his blood and DNA found on a cigarette butt in my house was found, in the end on the 31/517 he was sentenced to just 120hrs cso😲
    Now since that day my daughter has hardly attended school, is 1-1/2 yrs behind her peers, will not sleep unless her older sister17 is nxt to her, won’t go to to the toilet alone and every noise she hears it’s “mum quick ***** is coming! Also she has a thing for dogs now but I was just wondering if you could help me as I’m stuck as to where to even ask for some sort of advice or steer me in the right direction.
    Cheers
    Debra

  10. Brett

    I was sexualy assaulted in prison whilst in protection I have filed charges am I entitled to any compensarion

  11. lima

    Hi,

    I don’t know if this will be of any relevance now but 2 years ago I was working I was 8 and half months heavily pregnant with my 3rd baby I was heading home after a long exhausting day at work I caught the train to blacktown where my husband and kids were waiting for me I got off at blacktown station and headed straight to the toilets (public toilet in station) as I was in the toilet I heard police officers barging through the door and screaming for someone to come out and to my surprised they knocked really loud on the door of the toilet I was in I was in sheer panic attack and responded I’m using this toilet and I looked through the gap of the door to see who it was and freekingly I saw the eyes of a female cop staring right at me through the gap and yelling for me to get out. I quickly finished and opened the door and they (female cops) both looked at me while I walked over to the sink to wash my hands and they kept standing there just staring at me and as I turned around to make my way out the exit door of the toilets I think it was then that they both realized that they had made a mistake when they saw I was heavily pregnant and didn’t look like the person they were after. I was angry upset and traumatized by that whole oldeal and because I didn’t know my rights I just ignored what had happened but to this day I am still left emotionally traumatized by it all. My question is can I get compensated for this and is it too late?

  12. RC

    Victim of an extremely violent sexual assault in 1977, ruined my life. nothing can compensate for the damages it did. i will never fully recover.

  13. GB

    It’s 26yrs years since being raped regularly by my now ex Christian husband, I am not after compensation money because I feel the little amount offered is really another form of abuse, I will accept counseling. I didn’t think I needed it until now, in 2018 Thank you

  14. Sarah

    Hi i need to know how to claim for my 6 year old son. 1 year ago my son had got shot, he was in his bedroom playing with his 12 year old sister and some unknown person shot at the house going through the front wall of the house and into my son the prejectile hit throw his left side of his kidney and has lodged up near his lung and spine they can’t remove it and it has to remain in his body because it is too dangerous to remove as he would need other organs moved to get to it and it could result to a no so good surgery if u catch my drift . What do i do and how long does he have to claim for victims compensation as he is only 6 years old plus my daughter as she was in the room to it and is emotionally and mentally traumatised by witnessing it how do i go with all this . Thanku Sarah…

  15. Anonymous!

    What about someone who has been welcomed into Ur childhood home by our mum only to become violent on many to most occasions where he singled me out as the only male in our house (he had his own son) he targeted me on many occasions being physically violent, intimidating & persecuting me to the point I had no choice to move out! He then proceeded to set up his young son with my oldest sister, beat my Mum & eventually rape my youngest sister at least once, but more likely on multiple occasions! My mum stayed with him for a long time after this had happened & we had all moved out, mum left him around 2yrs ago but because of my eldest sister now married to his son & has a child to him my sister is reluctant to press charges or make a complaint, they also live in a very small tight knit town! This basically destroyed our family from inside out!! I understand my sisters concerns as she would be made out to b the bad person who would then be responsible for more divisions!!? However it eats me up inside that this putrid man is still living his life like nothing has happened!!? I’m sure we r not the only family in a situation like this, something needs to change!!

  16. Anonymous

    Hi, I was 15 when I was physically assaulted by a man, he hit my teeth out 3 to be exact, fractured my orbit bone in my eye, also significantly damaged my jaw still causing pain now I am 24yrs old a mother to a son, still dealing with the trauma of the assault.
    My claim for compensation was denied but due to my age and my depression I wasn’t in the right my to appeal not being aware of the trauma I would feel later in life..
    If there is any chance of an appeal please help and let me know.. it had been 9 years after the assault.

  17. Info

    When I was 9 I was raped by my older cousin then when I was 10 I was sexually assaulted by another cousins, I have been seeing a psychologist and it’s bringing up things when I was 15 yrs old I used to babysit and the brother of the lady I babysat for would get drunk and come into the room and have sex with me this went on for about 6 months he was living there at the time My Mum found out and told him to leave me alone which he didn’t I am really not copping with any of it anxiety suicidal ideation can’t work I don’t know I am 44 now and do t know what I can do or not do

  18. Jessica

    Hi I’m still trying to recover fro my domestic violence relationships with both my ex’s I was wondering how can I apply for compensation n support

  19. Deborah Hunter

    My partner was murdered,I witnessed him die, and defendant has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, how to go for compsation,due to incident, thanks

  20. RC

    I was trafficked to Australia at 11 years old through adoption and was made a modern day slave. I was sexually abused all that time (person’s dead now). I ran away when I was 18. Then scammed by family overseas who tricked me to sending money on regular basis and helped with immigration. Person left within a couple of months after I found a job for that person. It’s been a struggled since I was 11 years old. I’m 48 now. I’m angry. I feel used and I don’t know what to do or how to claim for compensation.

Leave a Comment




*