Impact on victims – knowing your rights

Some time ago a spate of attacks took place in the Northern suburbs of Brisbane, dubbed by the media as Brisbane’s ‘bikeway attacks’.

Many of the victims have demanded action from the Queensland Police Service, and rightly so. The offenders deserve to be apprehended and punished for their crimes. In response, the Queensland Police Service has created Operation Echo Shine in an attempt to identify and apprehend the offenders. We can only hope that the operation will be a success.  

But what of the victims?  

All of the victims will continue to suffer from the after-effects of the individual assault committed against them. Unfortunately, a great number of victims of sexual assault will develop psychological injuries in connection with their ordeal. In some cases, these injuries will have a permanent impact on the victim’s psychological and emotional health.  

The identification, conviction and punishment of the offender may provide some comfort, however will rarely bring about a resolution of the victim’s injuries. Further, victims of crime may suffer from lost earnings while they recuperate and may incur significant medical and other expenses in connection with their injuries. Criminal punishment of the offender does not address these issues.  

In 1995, the Queensland Government passed the Criminal Offence Victims Act (‘the COVA’) which established a scheme of compensation for victims of crime to assist with monetary loss such as lost earnings and medical expenses, as well as compensate for any physical or emotional pain suffered by victims.  

A victim of crime is entitled to monetary compensation where:-  

– They have sustained an injury;  

– The injury was caused by a personal offence committed against them (usually a physical or sexual assault);  

– The offender is convicted of the personal offence, or the offender is never identified.  

The amount of compensation is assessed by a court upon application by the victim, and will depend upon the severity of the injuries sustained. The maximum amount of compensation payable under the present system is $75,000.  

An application must be made within three years of the offender’s conviction or within three years of the offence itself if the offender is not identified.  

An injury will include mental or nervous shock and physical injuries such as lacerations, fractures, wounds and scarring.  

The system requires that any amount of compensation be paid by the offender themselves. In most cases, the offender will not have the resources to pay the compensation. In those cases, the Queensland Government will ordinarily pay the compensation amount on the offender’s behalf so that the victim does not miss out.  

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a criminal offence, you may have an entitlement to compensation. We recommend that you seek advice as soon as possible.  

Monetary compensation cannot repair the damage that a criminal offence can inflict on a victim; however it can assist with the financial burden caused by the injuries and go some way to compensating a victim for their pain.  

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