The Victims of Crime Commissioner acknowledges that there is a role for alternative forms of participation or alternative justice responses for victims of crime, such as restorative justice.
Providing options for victims of crime acknowledges that victims have a variety of justice needs and not all of them can be met by the traditional criminal justice system.
Research suggests that alternative forms of participation or alternative justice responses—such as restorative justice—can meet more of victims’ needs, including participation, voice, validation, vindication and offender accountability when done in a safe, trauma-informed way.
With the expansion of various alternative justice options in Victoria, such as redress, apology, restorative and reparative justice, the Victims of Crime Commissioner notes that there is an opportunity in Victoria to develop an overarching framework for ‘alternative’ or ‘parallel’ justice options, incorporating restorative justice.
Such a framework would clearly articulate the principles underpinning alternative or parallel justice options, as well outlining the victims’ role, entitlements and the service standards expected.
In this context, the Victims of Crime Commissioner emphasises the importance of:
- Victims’ lived experience being centred in design and evaluation. Victims’ voices and experiences should be centred, not only in the development of new models, programs or services, but also in the independent evaluation of existing programs or services. Independent evaluation of existing restorative justice programs must be made publicly available. Without this, it is difficult to determine victims’ satisfaction with the existing pathways.
- Improved information provision and safe referral pathways for victims. Victims need clear and consistent pathways to relevant programs or services. Referral processes also need to be streamlined and carefully designed to ensure victims are only referred at appropriate and safe points of the process, and by people with appropriate, trauma-informed training.
- Models, services and programs having clear and consistent terminology. There needs to be clarity and transparency for victims (and the community) about the purpose and objectives of services or programs, including whose needs are centred and prioritised so that victims are aware of what type of service or model is being provided, including the trauma-informed principles underpinning it.
- Government leading capability and capacity building in the sector. This should be done by introducing consistent state-wide standards alongside a robust training and accreditation framework. This will ensure all current and future programs meet best-practice to minimise the risk of further trauma and harm to victims. Government should also lead in development of the sector to ensure there is a workforce in place that is mature and capable when these programs or processes are offered to victims.
The Victims of Crime Commissioner also considers it vital the Victims’ Charter be amended to ensure:
- minimum standards for restorative justice programs / services are incorporated, ensuring any breaches fall within scope of the Commissioner’s oversight mechanisms
- victims have the right to be provided with information about available options and referred to appropriate support services to engage with these options when they come into contact with police, prosecuting and victims’ services.