Victims Compensation Legislation
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: On 6 March the Hon. P. J. Breen asked me a question without notice relating to the Victims Compensation Scheme. The Attorney General has provided the following response:
The awards in the matter referred to in the Sydney Morning Herald article quoted by the Hon. P. J. Breen result from an appeal to the District Court against determinations of the Victims Compensation Tribunal dismissing the applications for compensation under the Victims Compensation Act 1987. The scheme operating under the 1987 Act was closed in 1997. The current statutory compensation scheme under the Victims Support and Rehabilitation Act 1996, for victims injured as a result of serious crime, provides, as did the former scheme, for a non-adversarial, non-court based system. The legislation places the onus on the applicant to provide evidence of an act of violence and a compensable injury. It is simply not the case that the allegations made by a claimant are untested. The legislation requires that any application for victims compensation must be in the form of a signed affidavit, medical evidence must be provided by the claimant and relevant police and court reports are independently obtained. A major consideration in determining the claim is whether the matter has been reported to the police.
Determinations of applications are made by compensation assessors who are legally qualified. Section 28 provides that if the assessor is not satisfied with the medical evidence he can refer the applicant for an independent medical examination. Currently 50 per cent of all claims for compensation are dismissed with no award. If victims services is made aware of a possible fraudulent claim, the matter is referred to the New South Wales Police Service for investigation. In the past year, a number of such matters have been referred. The legislation, in section 44, provides for recovery from fraudulent claimants and any award is subject to the condition that "the person to or for whose benefit the award is made must repay to the director the amount awarded if it is subsequently ascertained that the award was obtained by fraud or collusion".
An award of victims compensation is, however, determined on the balance of probabilities, the civil standard, that an act of violence has occurred. This of course is a lesser standard than the standard required for a criminal conviction. Since the inception of a statutory victims compensation scheme in 1987, any person alleged by the applicant to have committed the acts of violence is neither notified of the claim, nor in any way involved in the determination of the matter. As you will appreciate, victims support groups have always been concerned for the right of a victim of crime to make an application for compensation, without fear of possible involvement of the alleged offender. Given that the involvement of alleged offenders in victims compensation proceedings would represent a fundamental change to the way the scheme has operated since its inception, I consider that further consideration of this question could most appropriately be undertaken as part of the statutory review of the Act which is due to commence later this year.