Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (17 June) . . Page.. 1916 ..
This change will not open up the scheme for wide-scale fraud. Whether or not a crime is reported, to be awarded financial assistance, victims have to establish to the satisfaction of the court that the alleged offence was committed. For many victims, reporting the crime to the police will make it easier to prove that the offence was in fact committed. Experience under the previous legislation, where reporting was not mandatory, showed that most victims find that tendering a copy of their statement to the police and the report of any subsequent police investigation significantly expedites their claim for financial assistance.
There is a $650 cap on legal fees for financial assistance matters. It's claimed that this figure does not always reflect the value of work actually performed. Accordingly, the government will raise the legal fee cap to $800. The government will not increase the fee further. Victims must pay legal fees themselves, and anything more than $800 could prove prohibitive for some victims.
Many claimants have found the application process for financial assistance intimidating and difficult. I'm pleased to inform members that, since the government's response was finalised, the department has simplified the application form and explanatory material in consultation with the Victims of Crime Coordinator, the ACT Magistrates Court and other stakeholders. The new forms, which are available from the Magistrates Court or online from the ACT Legislation Register, will make applications for financial assistance less daunting and easier to complete.
The government is pleased that Dr Dare has found the victims services scheme to be working well and has found it offers appropriate assistance to victims. No significant changes to this scheme are deemed necessary. The government agrees with his recommendation for the development of an evaluation framework for the scheme. ACT Community Care and the Victims Assistance Board are undertaking this task.
I do not believe it necessary to broaden the services offered by the victims services scheme, given the wide range of therapeutic and rehabilitative services already offered. Each victim and his or her case manager jointly develop a care plan for the victim's rehabilitation, choosing whichever services they agree will best promote that victim's recovery. This process ensures that services are tailored to each victim's needs.
Dr Dare's report has shown there is a need to restore balance in the legislation, and the government's response does that.
Mr Speaker, I move:
That the Assembly takes note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Stefaniak ) adjourned to the next sitting.
Legal aid assistance
Mr Stanhope presented the following paper: