As a victim of crime you may be eligible for compensation under the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1976. Under this Act payments are made from a government fund to acknowledge the pain and suffering of a victim and provide compensation for any loss of income and medical or other expenses which are a result of the criminal conduct.
An application under the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1976 is not the only remedy. If the person responsible for your loss has assets, then you might consider suing them for common law damages. It would be wise to seek legal advice before commencing any action. The Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania can be contacted on 1300 366 611 for free legal advice.
What is compensated?
Compensation is limited to dealing with personal injury or loss. Injury means actual physical bodily harm (e.g. a broken bone, cuts, bruising) damage to a person's mental health (e.g. they suffer anxiety, insomnia or have a breakdown), pain and suffering and unwanted pregnancy where a sexual crime has been committed. The compensation covers monetary loss to you as a result of your injuries, including loss of income.
You cannot be compensated for loss of, or damage to, property under the Act.
Compensation in respect of an injury may be awarded in respect of any one or more of the following that arise due to the injury:
- Expenses incurred;
- The cost of medical, dental, psychological or counselling services that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Commissioner is satisfied will be required in the future;
- Loss of wages/salary as a result of a victims incapacity to work; and
- Expenses incurred as a result of claiming compensation.
Applying for criminal injuries compensation
All applications must be made to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Commissioner and are to be made within 3 years from the date of the offence. If the victim is less than 18 years old at the time of the relevant offence, their application is to be made no later than 3 years after he/she turns 18. The Commissioner may extend this 3 year period if there are special circumstances which justify the extension, an application for extension of time must be completed first.
To obtain compensation under the Act you will need to prove that you have suffered injury or loss as a result of the relevant criminal conduct.
Steps to be taken include:
- making sure that the incident has been reported to the Police. The person does not have to have been found guilty or even prosecuted in order for you to apply for compensation. If the offender has been convicted of the relevant offence this is taken to be conclusive evidence that the offence has been committed;
- seeing an appropriate medical practitioner or psychologist and obtaining a medical report about your injuries and their effect on you;
- preparing a statement that details all of the effects that the criminal conduct has had on you.
Once these steps have been taken you should complete your Application for Compensation Form. The application form must be lodged with the Victims Support Services. Allow at least 6 months for your application to be processed, the time an application takes to be processed will depend on the availability of police files, medical reports and other relevant information. An application for an award must be determined within 3 years from the date of application.
Hearings are informal and are conducted in a private, friendly environment before a Criminal Injuries Compensation Commissioner. The offender will not be present at the hearing. The applicant is normally present as this is an opportunity for you to explain how the crime has affected you. Support people are also able to attend the hearing. If you don't feel comfortable attending a hearing, there is an option of attending by telephone or asking that the application be decided on the documents provided.
The maximum amount that can be awarded to a primary victim for a single offence is $30,000 and $50,000 for more than one offence.
A secondary victim (a person who suffers injury as a result of witnessing an offence, or a parent, step-parent or guardian of a child victim) may be awarded $20,000.
A related victim (e.g. spouse, child or sibling of primary victim) may be awarded $10,000.
Can you appeal?
A Commissioner's decision is final. There is no right of appeal in criminal injuries compensation matters if you are dissatisfied with the amount of compensation awarded.
- Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1976 (Tas)