Justice inquiry gives voice to crime victims

Tania Maxwell MP says an inquiry into Victoria’s justice system provides a powerful opportunity for crime victims to voice the case for change after submissions opened yesterday (April 13).

The Member for Northern Victoria successfully brought a motion to Parliament in June last year for the Legislative Council to inquire into ways the justice system operates and its effectiveness.

The Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee, of which Ms Maxwell is a member, will examine:

  • Factors influencing Victoria’s growing remand and prison populations
  • Ways to reduce rates of repeat offending (recidivism)
  • How to ensure judges and magistrates have appropriate knowledge and expertise when sentencing and dealing with offenders, including an understanding of recidivism and the causes of crime; and
  • Appointment processes for judges in other jurisdictions, especially reviewing skill-sets required for judges and magistrates overseeing specialist courts.

“This is the broadest inquiry into Victoria’s justice system for almost 30 years,” Ms Maxwell said.

“I encourage victims of crime to seek the support they might need to make submissions because their voices will influence change.

“For so long these have been voices unheard, lost in a system of ballooning complexity and where, too often, the rights of offenders prevail.

“This inquiry opens the prospect of ways to deliver practical support to victims, such as the right to legal representation that offenders have, and a victim advocacy service.

“I expect cases will also be made for the inquiry to consider children as victims in their own right, especially in family violence cases, where so often there is limited support, or none, for kids who experience domestic trauma.”

Ms Maxwell said the inquiry would also look at the potential for early intervention and primary prevention to shape how communities can work to help stop people from becoming involved in crime in the first place.

“The latest Corrections Victoria figures show the number of people on remand – unsentenced when they enter the prison – has trebled in the past 10 years from 3454 in 2010 to 10,998 in 2020,” she said.

“For the most serious crimes, the number of offenders jailed for acts intended to cause injury are up 34 per cent and illicit drug use up 24pc since 2015.

“We can do so much more to improve the wellbeing of those who are vulnerable in our communities so that people don’t become involved in the justice system, and to reduce repeat offending.

“I recognise that cutting rates of recidivism requires significant investment in prevention and many factors play a part, particularly in rural and regional areas, including access to housing, skills training, work, health services, and alcohol and drug management.

“But, as a society, we need to be serious about tackling this challenge, and that means properly resourcing support services, including mental health, so prisoners can rehabilitate and, when released, go back to their families and back to a job.”

Ms Maxwell said the role and benefits of cultural and skills training to enable magistrates and judges to specialise in hearings involving indigenous people, family violence, and alcohol and drug use was another important inquiry term of reference.

Visit https://parliament.vic.gov.au/lsic-lc/article/4532 for the inquiry’s specific terms of reference and ways to make a submission online or in writing. People who want help to make a submission should contact Ms Maxwell’s electorate office:

Submissions can be made until July 30.