Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 1 Hansard (11 February) . .
removes the requirement to apply for an extension of time through a public court process. The Victims of Crime Commissioner will instead have the ability to extend the time limit in the interests of fairness, having regard to the circumstances of the applicant, the circumstances of the offence and whether the extension of time will prevent a fair consideration of the application. The government believes that these elements will greatly improve the accessibility of the scheme for victims of sexual assault, as well as all other victims.
I would now like to turn to outlining the fourth new element of the new scheme. In addition to the types of payments I have outlined already, any person who has paid or is required to pay for the funeral of a person deceased as the result of homicide is eligible for a funeral expense payment of up to $8,000. It is not necessary to show a family or personal relationship with the deceased person to be eligible for this payment.
The scheme will pay funeral expenses resulting from a homicide to demonstrate that the ACT community finds taking another person's life unacceptable and to ensure that people close to the victim do not bear the burden of paying for a funeral. The new scheme will continue to be a scheme of last resort and to complement other support services and avenues of redress. If an applicant receives a payment from another source that covers the same harm or loss as the financial assistance is intended to cover, the amount of financial assistance will be reduced. Other payments include awards of damages in civil proceedings, a workers compensation payment or an insurance payment.
The bill also requires the amount of financial assistance to be reduced if the applicant contributed to the injury suffered or participated in the offence. The bill also requires offenders who have been convicted of an offence for which financial assistance was paid to pay back the amount given as financial assistance. This requires the offender to contribute to the financial cost of the scheme as a result of the harm caused to their victim. The Victims of Crime Commissioner will be responsible for issuing recovery notices and seeking payment.
Two stages of review are included in the process to ensure that offenders have the opportunity to object on the grounds available and for the offender's circumstances to be taken into account. The Victims of Crime Commissioner is also required to consult with the person who received the financial assistance before contacting the offender to ensure any safety concerns are considered. It is expected that the new scheme will commence on 1 July this year. (Extension of time granted.)
Changes to eligibility will not be applied retrospectively. Applications already lodged with the court will continue to be determined under the existing scheme. Victims eligible to apply under the existing scheme who have not done so will have 12 months from the commencement of the new scheme to apply to the court. This ensures that victims who wish to have their application determined by the court have an opportunity to do so within 12 months. The court must assess these applications under the old scheme.
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