Key points

  • A victim of crime is an individual who has suffered injury from a criminal offence.
  • A person adversely affected by crime is also a victim of crime plus their family members and witnesses.
  • The principles in the Victims’ Charter (External link) apply to both victims of crime and persons adversely affected by crime.
  • A victim of crime is defined in legislation.

Who can be considered a victim of crime?

The Victims’ Charter provides a three-step definition of a ‘victim of crime’ and ‘a person adversely affected by crime.’ Individuals must satisfy all three steps for the Victims’ Charter to apply. However, this is only in so far that an individual is receiving investigatory, prosecutorial or victims’ services provided by a prescribed agency.

Step

What the Victims Charter says

Step 1:
Criminal Offence

A criminal offence needs to have occurred. The following factors may apply:

  • The criminal offence is identifiable in legislation
  • The Victorian criminal justice system must have jurisdiction to deal with the criminal offence
  • The criminal offence may have been committed at any time in the past
  • A criminal offence does not require a known perpetrator and does not require a conviction
  • A criminal offence may include instances of criminal negligence (i.e. where a perpetrator unintentionally committed an act).

Step 2:
Injury

An injury needs to be suffered by the individual. This can be any combination of the following:

  • actual physical injury
  • mental illness or disorder or an exacerbation of a mental illness or disorder
  • pregnancy as result of the criminal offence
  • grief, distress, trauma or other significant adverse effect
  • loss or damage to property.

Step 3:
Victim

To be a victim of crime (category 1) an individual must:

  • Suffer injury as a direct result of a criminal offence

To be a family member victim (category 2), a category 1 victim must:

  • Have died
  • be under 18 years, or
  • have a mental impairment that affects their mental capacity.

To identify as a family member victim, the individual must also:

  • Be or have been a spouse or domestic partner of the victim
  • Have or had an intimate or personal relationship with the victim
  • Be or have been a relative of the victim
  • Be or have been a child who normally or regularly reside(ed)s with the victim
  • Be a child of an individual who had an intimate or personal relationship with the victim.

To be a person adversely affected by crime (category 3) that person can be:

  • a victim as defined in category 1
  • the family member of a victim defined in category 2
  • a witness to a criminal offence.

What is the difference between victims of crime and persons adversely affected by crime?

More Charter Principles apply to victims of crime than persons adversely affected by crime.

All Charter Principles apply to victims of crime. The provisions that apply to persons adversely affected by crime are:

  • Principle 1 - treatment with courtesy, respect and dignity
  • Principle 3 – special treatment of disadvantaged persons
  • Principle 4 – information on available services and support

What is the difference between victims of crime and other victims/survivors

There may be instances where an individual does not want to be identified as a victim of crime. For some, this title does not accurately represent their experience. It is acknowledged the definition of victim/survivor in a general sense may be different to the definition in the Victims’ Charter.

In these situations, agencies may find the Charter objectives are helpful with accommodating the needs of these individuals. This includes:

  • recognising the impact of crime, including the impact on families, witnesses to the crime and in some cases, the broader community
  • recognising that some individuals have an inherent interest in the response by the criminal justice system to a crime
  • acknowledging the individual's role as a participant, but not a party, in proceedings for criminal offences
  • reducing the likelihood of secondary victimisation by the criminal justice system.

What happens if the Victims’ Charter does not apply?

If an individual’s circumstances do not meet the definition of victim of crime or person adversely affected by a crime, the Victims’ Charter may not apply. Agencies could decide whether it is appropriate to apply the Victims’ Charter despite the individual not meeting the definition. This may arise in the following situations:

  • When there is a civil dispute (i.e. a court dispute between two individuals) and no criminal offence has occurred.
  • When there is an application for a personal safety intervention order and no criminal offence has occurred.
  • When it is unclear if the criminal offence caused injury,
  • When a client is not interacting with an agency in an investigatory or prosecutorial capacity or is not accessing a victims’ service provided by an agency.