Justice inquiry puts victims first


March 24, 2021

Legal and Social Issues Committee

Criminal justice inquiry report tabled

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (10:17):

It gives me great pleasure to speak to this report tabled today for the Legal and Social Issues Committee inquiry into Victoria’s criminal justice system. This is something that I have intended to do since the day I was elected to this Parliament.

First, I would like to thank the chair and committee members as well as Lilian Topic, Matt Newington and other committee staff for their support throughout this enormous inquiry.

The physical size of the report, as you have seen, is an indication of the work required, including background research, compiling information from the 170 submissions and evidence from 50 public hearings through to supporting the deliberations and drafting of the final report and recommendations.

I pay tribute to the many victims that contributed to this inquiry, both through written submissions and in hearings, and I welcome some of them who are in the gallery today.

The sharing of their experience demonstrates the deep and enduring suffering that comes from the impact of crime. My referral to the committee was born from these experiences, and I stand here today to say: I hear you, and this report is for you—sorry, I am so emotional about this. I also thank the organisations who work across the broad justice space, who dedicate themselves to difficult and important work.

When I brought my motion to the Parliament back in June 2020 to refer this inquiry to the Legal and Social Issues Committee, I noted that significantly driving down crime has to be the goal that we all share—that and supporting victims of crime. With more than 50 per cent of people incarcerated in Victoria going on to re-offend, we simply must stop this.

I wanted the committee to investigate the drivers of recidivism—how we safeguard our community against these serious violent offenders, but also ensure our corrections system is sufficiently corrective in its actions and outcomes. We have considered the opportunities for reform to break what is often a downward spiral of offending for those caught up in crime, but also how to limit the lifetime of suffering for those victims and survivors.

Motion agreed to.

Labor needs to match SA party on child sex laws

March 7, 2022

Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party is asking the Victorian government to follow South Australian Labor’s lead and commit to a suite of child sex offender law reform.

SA Labor has just announced the following promises ahead of the state election on March 19:

  • Introduction of a public sex offender register
  • New laws to keep child sex offenders in prison until they prove they can control their instincts
  • Strengthening penalties for a range of child sex offences
  • Lifetime electronic monitoring for serious child sex offenders released from prison
  • Strengthening online offending laws

The Victorian government should look to its SA colleagues’ strong initiative and crack down on child sex offenders.

The Victorian government today released its response to Parliament’s Legal and Social Issues Committee Inquiry into Management of Child Sex Offender Information and failed to commit to vital recommendations, including:

  • Giving education providers annual funding to access preventative education around child sexual offending
  • Asking the Victorian Law Reform Commission to explore a Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme (similar to that operating in Western Australia and the United Kingdom)

This response is a slap in the face to child sexual abuse victims. The Victorian government should be bolder in its response to condemning this abhorrent behaviour.

If SA Labor can commit to these strong policies, but its neighbour can’t, then Victorian kids will be at risk.

“I was shocked to read that on the same day we have South Australian Labor announcing strong policies condemning child sexual abuse, the Victorian government is not endorsing committee recommendations to do the same here,” said Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party state leader Stuart Grimley MP.

“It baffles me that eight hours down the road from Adelaide, Victoria has a government that won’t commit to simple recommendations such as a limited child sex offender disclosure scheme. Parents have the right to know.

“It’s time to stop the politics and playing with children’s safety.”

Member for Northern Victoria Tania Maxwell MP said:

“Victorian Labor needs to show the same strong stance against child sex offenders as its SA colleagues.

“We need funding for preventative programs in schools. When every school-aged child has access to a laptop or tablet, why can’t Victoria have mandatory online education to make sure our kids are staying safe from predators?

“Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party was formed to take a strong stance against child sex offenders.  We’re working every day for fair, just, safe communities. We ask Labor to step up to the same goal.”

Help improve our criminal justice system

July 7, 2021

The criminal justice system inquiry now underway in Victoria is the broadest in 30 years.

The inquiry has come about after horrific murders in Wangaratta in 2015 and 2016. A rapist on parole committed one of these crimes. The other was committed by a previously convicted violent offender who had just been released from prison for breaching parole.

These awful events spurred a community campaign called ENOUGHISENOUGH that led to my election as a parliamentarian. They’re also the reason why the inquiry’s first hearing opened in Wangaratta on June 30, this year.

The Parliament’s Legal and Social Issues Committee – of which I’m a member with six other MPs – is conducting the inquiry.

The committee is chaired by Fiona Patten who, in this video with me and deputy chair Tien Kieu, talks about the inquiry’s terms of reference. These include:

  • Factors influencing Victoria’s growing remand and prison populations
  • Ways to reduce rates of repeat offending – known as 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.

The inquiry provides a clear opportunity for people throughout the state and especially in rural and regional communities to influence change. Voices that have long been lost in what can be daunting, complex system can now be heard. The committee wants to hear them. It also wants to host more hearings in regional communities.

So I really encourage people who’ve had both difficult and positive experiences in the criminal justice system to make a submission. This video sets out how the inquiry works, what it’s examining, and how you can participate.

Find out how to make a submission. Or if you need advice about the process you can call the committee staff on 03 8682 2869. My statement about the inquiry also provides more details.

Please have your say.

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.