Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3330..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
Further, the transitional provisions ensure that criminal injuries sustained before the commencement day of this legislation will be dealt with under the act, as it was before its amendment. In other words, financial assistance in the form of compensation for pain and suffering, for police, fire fighters, ambulance officers and victims of sexual offences will still be available for injuries sustained before the new provisions commence.
This bill also amends the act to remove the requirement for a police report to have been made as a prerequisite for claiming financial assistance. This amendment is in recognition of the reluctance of some victims, particularly women sexual offence victims, to report criminal injury. This may be due to a host of reasons, including fear of retribution from partners, an unwillingness to disclose they were a victim of a sexual offence, embarrassment, discomfort, social or cultural reasons. The government believes people should have a choice whether or not they make such a report. Access to financial assistance should not be denied because the victim chooses not to report the crime.
In the absence of a police report, victims will still have to establish to the satisfaction of the court that the alleged offence was committed, to successfully claim financial assistance. To this end, the act has been amended to provide that applicants for financial assistance must attach any other relevant document, such as photographs, dental records or witness statements, to support their claim. Indeed, many victims may find that reporting the crime to the police will make it easier to prove that the offence was in fact committed, but this will be their choice.
The regulations are to be amended to raise the capped fee legal practitioners may charge applicants when preparing an application for financial assistance. As it was claimed that the current fee of $650 doesn't reflect the complexities of many applications for assistance, the fee has been raised to $800. The government acknowledges that this is a modest increase but is not prepared to increase it further, given that victims must pay legal fees themselves. Anything more than $800 could prove prohibitive for some victims.
These amendments have arisen from the independent review of the act and reflect the views of the community as evidenced through submissions to the Dare review and in the development of the government's response. The government gave a commitment to make the financial assistance scheme fair and accessible to all while retaining the best aspects of the scheme. The government believes this bill achieves, that and I commend the bill to the Assembly.
Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth ) adjourned to the next sitting.
MS TUCKER: I would like to make an explanation under standing order 46, just to clarify something Mr Stanhope said. I was misrepresented by Mr Stanhope just then. I would like to clarify.
MR SPEAKER: Well, as long as it's personal.
MS TUCKER: It's very personal. I just want it put on the record that, Mr Stanhope, in his speech said, "Crossbench members were responsible for creating"-