Motion

June 9, 2022

Trauma for victims of crime and their families is compounded in circumstances where a mental impairment defence delivers a verdict of ‘not guilty by reason of mental impairment’.

It is important to families who have lost a loved one in an act committed by someone who is mentally impaired, for the justice system to recognise that the act is proven to have been committed by the defendant, including when the responsibility of the perpetrator is diminished because of their mental state.

It is important for victim survivors to have the act perpetrated against them validated by the court and reflected in the finding. This change seeks to balance this recognition for victims, while still reflecting the impact of mental impairment on criminal responsibility.

The New South Wales Parliament introduced this change in 2020 after a campaign by families of deceased victims including the daughter of Ian and Margaret Settree.  The Bill passed the NSW Parliament without opposition or amendment and revised the statutory special verdict from ‘not guilty by reason of mental illness’ to ‘act proven but not criminally responsible’.

This change recognises that the person did do the act but is not criminally responsible, and therefore a conviction still does not apply, as currently.  This recognition is of significant value to victims and their families – it may, in some cases, be all they have left.

This motion calls on the Victorian Government to request that the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) review the defence of mental impairment with special consideration to substituting the finding of ‘not guilty because of mental impairment’ with ‘act proven but not criminally responsible’.

The proposed timeline for the review is for the VLRC to be completed and provided to the Government by 28 February 2023 and for the Government to report to the Parliament on its response by 30 June 2023.

Notice of  Motion 784 

That this House —
(1) notes that —
(a) violent criminal offences create enduring physical and psychological trauma for
victims of crime;
(b) in the case of a finding of ‘not guilty because of mental impairment’, the alleged
offender is proven to have committed the offence but their culpability is diminished in
the eyes of our courts;
(c) trauma for victims can be compounded in these circumstances because a finding of
‘not guilty because of mental impairment’ suggests the act was not proven, or the
offender did not cause the harm alleged in the charge;
(2) recognises that the New South Wales Parliament amended its laws in 2020 to a verdict
that reflects the act is proven but that the offender is not criminally responsible; and
(3) calls on the Government to request that the Victorian Law Reform Commission review the
defence of mental impairment with specific consideration of substituting the finding of ‘not
guilty because of mental impairment’ with ‘act proven but not criminally responsible’ by
28 February 2023 and for the Government to report to the Parliament on its response by
30 June 2023.