Victim Involvement with decisions of the Sentence Administration Board

Various legislation in the ACT aims to acknowledge, protect and promote the interests of victims in the administration of justice.  The Victims of Crimes Act 1994 contains principles that govern the way criminal justice agencies, including the Sentence Administration Board (the Board), must engage with victims. The principles include a requirement that victims be dealt with at all times in a sympathetic and constructive way with regard to their personal situation, rights, and dignity. The principles also require that a victim who is known to have expressed concern about the need for protection from an offender be told about the offender's impending release from custody. The Board is an independent body that determines whether an offender is suitable for release to parole and provides recommendations to the Attorney-General about the release of offenders on licence.  The Board also decides the consequences of sentenced offenders failing to comply with parole orders, Intensive Correction Orders (ICOs) and licences.  The Board has the power to reinstate an ICO if it has been cancelled.

Victims should register if they wish to be involved in decisions of the Board, by contacting the Victim Liaison Officer on 6207 0836 or email: victims.register@act.gov.au. Registered victims will be informed of certain cases before the Board and be able to make submissions under the CSA Act (Chapter 10). For example, a registered victim will be given an opportunity to provide a written or oral submission to the Board about an offender's possible release on parole or licence (sections 123-124, 292 CSA Act). Providing a submission or oral evidence to the Board is voluntary. 

Victim impact statements provided during sentencing proceedings conducted by the court are usually available to the Board. Transcripts of offender’s sentencing by the court are also usually available to the Board, and these commonly refer to the evidence and views of victims and the impact on the victim. If a victim has nothing further to raise, beyond what is available from records of the criminal proceedings that resulted in the offender’s conviction, they may wish to make no submission or to re-affirm that material including their victims impact statements.

It is important to note that the Board cannot change the sentence imposed by a court or conduct a re-trial of the offender. It cannot hear new evidence about the crime, nor can it refuse an offender's release because someone believes the sentence imposed was lenient.  The Board is also unable to make orders for financial restitution to victims.

 

Confidentiality of Victim’s Submissions

Where possible and if the victim requests it, the Board will keep a victim’s submission or oral evidence in-confidence. The term used is ‘to secure’ the submission. This situation means their submission or evidence will be kept confidential and not disclosed to the offender or any of the parties in the case. However, it is important to be aware that in some circumstances the law may require the Board to disclose part or all of a confidential submission or oral evidence to the offender and other parties. Victims intending to make a submission or give oral evidence should consider this possibility.

If a victim wishes to have their submission or oral evidence made confidential, secured, they should make this known to the Board by contacting the Victim Liaison Officer on 02 6207 0836 or email: victims.register@act.gov.au. A judicial member of the Board will then decide whether the submission or proposed oral evidence should, or should not, be secured.  If the judicial member decides there are not grounds to secure it, the victim will be given an opportunity to withdraw their submission or withdraw their request to give oral evidence.

The Board usually seeks submissions and oral evidence from victims early in the proceedings before any hearing has occurred into the offender’s case. The Board then usually provides the offender with an opportunity to participate in a hearing to give oral evidence and to answer questions from the Board, including any questions that arise from the victim’s submission or oral evidence. 

Hearings before the Board are usually closed to members of the public and victims cannot attend the offender’s hearing.

Information provided to victims about an offender applying for parole or for release on licence

Before the Board determines an offender's suitability for release to parole or on licence, the Board must take all reasonable steps to seek the views of any registered victims about the possible release of the offender. Information about how to register as a victim of crime can obtained by contacting the Victim Liaison Officer on 02 6207 0836 or email: victims.register@act.gov.au.

Registered victims are invited to make a submission to the Board about any relevant concerns or issues, for example, any safety concerns they or their family may have regarding the offender.  The Board must consider any submission or oral evidence by a victim when deciding whether to grant parole. They must also consider if it is necessary to impose additional parole conditions to support and protect the victim if parole is granted.

Contents of a victim submission or oral evidence

A victim submission is a statement written by or on behalf of the victim or provided orally, about any concern or issue relevant to the Board decision to be made.  Its purpose is to inform the Board of concerns the victim or family may have about the offender being granted parole, and any additional conditions that should be imposed on the offender to deal with these concerns.

Victim impact statements provided during court sentencing proceedings are usually available to the Board. Transcripts of the offender’s sentencing by the court are also usually available to the Board. These commonly refer to the evidence and views of victims and the impact on the victim. If a victim has nothing further to raise beyond what is available from the sentencing proceedings conducted by the court, they may make no submission or re-affirm that material including their victims impact statements.

Board consideration of a victim’s submission or oral evidence

A victim submission to the Board  is one element of the information and documents considered by the Board during  its decision making.  Other considerations of the Board regarding the offender’s release include:

  • The offender's criminal history.
  • Court sentencing remarks.
  • Their behaviour in custody.
  • History of response to supervision in the community, offence-specific programs and rehabilitation undertaken while in custody.
  • Their post release plans.
  • Any reports, assessments and recommendations made by professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, custodial officers and case managers.
Victims who can provide a victim submission

A victim can make a submission or provide oral evidence to the Board where the offence is serious such that it results in the offender serving a term of imprisonment with a non-parole period, or in the case of licence applications there is life imprisonment.  Any victim who has suffered harm due to such offences can make a submission. This includes the primary victim of the offence, a family member and a dependent of the victim, and a witness.

It is strongly recommended that any victim register on the ACT Victims Register and keep their contact details updated if they wish to be kept informed by the Board about cases involving the offender who victimised them.  Although all reasonable efforts are made to contact and provide victims with an opportunity to make a written submission to the Board, this is not always possible. For example, a victim’s up-to-date contact details may not be known.

Assistance for victims who wish to register or make a submission to the Board

The Victim Liaison Officer ACT Corrective Services (VLO), can assist registered victims with the process of making a submission to the Board. Victims can register by contacting the VLO.

Contact details for the VLO are as follows:

Telephone: 02 6207 0836

Email: victims.register@act.gov.au

Postal address:
Victim Liaison Officer
GPO Box 158
Canberra ACT 2601

Victim Support ACT can provide a range of support services to community members who are adversely affected by crime. This includes help in relation to the making of a victim submission.

Contact details for Victim Support ACT are as follows:

Telephone: 02 6205 2222

Email: victimsupport@act.gov.au

Postal address:
Victim Support ACT
GPO Box 158
Canberra ACT 2601