Under the Victims of Crime Commissioner’s Act 2015 (External link), the Commissioner can conduct inquiries into systemic issues that affect victims of crime.

This means the Commissioner can investigate an area of the criminal justice system or victims’ services system to better understand how it affects victims.

This is called a systemic inquiry.

What is a ‘systemic’ issue?

A ‘systemic’ issue is an issue that happens over and over again. This means it affects many victims of crime.

The Commissioner’s approach to systemic inquiries

The Commissioner has developed principles to guide her approach to systemic inquiries.

These principles ensure the Commissioner:

  • listens to victims’ voices and considers their needs
  • incorporates both victims’ experiences and information gathered from other research, consultation and engagement activities.

The Commissioner uses a range of information, data and insights to plan her systemic inquiries. This ensures systemic inquiry topics reflect issues that are of concern to victims of crime and other members of the Victorian community.

This includes using information gathered from the Commissioner’s:

  • engagement activities with victims of crime and other stakeholders, including any issues referred to the Commissioner by victims or other members of the community
  • monitoring the compliance of criminal justice and victims’ services agencies’ with the Victims’ Charter (External link)
  • investigation of complaints made by victims about their treatment by justice agencies and victims’ services under the Victims’ Charter (External link)
  • policy and research activities.

Current inquiry - Victim Participation in the Justice System

Victims of Crime Commissioner Fiona McCormack is pleased to announce her first systemic inquiry, which will focus on victim participation in the justice system.

As part of this inquiry, the Commissioner will look at whether victims feel they have been able to participate in the justice system and whether new laws or policies might be needed to help victims participate in keeping with their entitlements under the Victims’ Charter.  

Why has this systemic inquiry been announced?

Too often victims are not at the centre of decisions and processes. Victims’ rights, interests, feelings, and wishes are seen as an afterthought, or worse, not recognised, seen, or heard at all.

Since 2018, victims in Victoria have been recognised under the Victims’ Charter as ‘participants’ in criminal proceedings. But such reforms do not always translate into tangible improvements in victims’ experience of the justice process.

Little is known about how victims are experiencing these new participatory entitlements in Victoria and whether victims’ status as a participant in the justice process has improved with these entitlements.

Background to the inquiry

A 2016 report by the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC), Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process (External link), found there is a significant disparity between the victim’s role as expressed in legislation and the victim’s experience in practice.

The VLRC recommended that the role of the victim as a participant in criminal proceedings be legislatively and operationally recognised.

Since 2018, the Victims’ Charter has recognised victims as a participant, but not a party, in proceedings for criminal offences. Specifically, the Victims’ Charter was amended in 2018 to create:

  • a new object of the Victims’ Charter to recognise that a victim of crime has an inherent interest in the response by the criminal justice system to that crime, giving rise to the rights and entitlements set out in the Charter, and to acknowledge the victim's role as a participant, but not a party, in proceedings for criminal offences
  • a requirement for investigatory, prosecuting and victims’ services agencies to respect the rights and entitlements of victims as participants in proceedings for criminal offences.

How to be involved in the inquiry

Consultation with victims on the systemic inquiry into victim participation in the justice system has now closed. Thank you to everyone who provided their feedback. If you would like to receive updates about the progress of this inquiry, or you would still like to talk to the Commissioner’s Office about your experience of the justice process, please email engagement@vocc.vic.gov.au (External link)

The Commissioner is now talking with community organisations and government agencies to hear their views about victim participation. If you interact with victims of crime in your work and would like to have your say on victim participation in the justice system, please contact engagement@vocc.vic.gov.au (External link) to discuss options for contributing. Feedback will be accepted anonymously and individually if preferred.

Further information

More information about this systemic inquiry can be found in the Terms of Reference (External link).

If you would like to receive updates about the progress of this inquiry, please email engagement@vocc.vic.gov.au (External link)