Published: 2 July 2012
Author: Creon Coolahan
New victims of crime compensation laws don't address the real problem
Victims of crime will find it easier to access compensation, following changes announced just recently by the Victorian Government.
Changes to the law will give the Courts the powers to order offenders to pay compensation to victims of crimes which lead to the loss or damage to property, such as broken shop windows, graffiti, car damage and so on. Where there is sufficient evidence, the Courts will be able to order compensation without the need for the victim to make a separate application or give formal evidence.
While the changes are welcome, what they ignore is the difficulty in getting hold of the money and assets that many criminals simply hide or squirrel away, making it impossible for the victim to win any compensation.
But this would mean topping up Government funding to the Criminal Proceeds Squad of Victoria Police. The Squad's job under existing laws is to make enquiries into the assets of offenders and take action to freeze those assets pending an application for compensation by the victim under the Sentencing Act. These police still have their hands tied behind their backs and labour under a policy that prevents them from taking action unless the compensation in question is more than $30,000.
Regardless of what powers the Court has to make orders to compensate the victim without a formal application being made, if the offender has already squandered his assets or transferred them to someone else, then it is going to be a hollow victory for the victim.
Victims may not be better off than they are at present, particularly if no one has the time or resources to stop the offender ridding themselves of assets.
If an offender does not pay a fine to the State, they are able to undertake community work to pay it off. Why not make it possible for offenders who have no assets to also pay off their compensation debts to victims by doing community work?
The finer details of the legislation requires examination.