Victims of the criminal justice system in South Australia

Criminology Research Council grant ; (24/87)

Victims of Crime: An Overview of Research and Policy reviews existing literature and research. It also summarises policy initiatives in South Australia aimed at improving the position of people who become victims of crime. The report begins from an historical perspective, assessing the past role of victims in society; the recent development of the victims movement; and problems with the definition of a victim. Statistical information on crime victims, the impact of the offence, fear of crime and the current role and status of victims also are covered. This report concludes with a summary of legislative changes, and of departmental responses to South Australian Government's 'Bill of Rights' for victims 1985.

Criminal Injuries Compensation in South Australia focuses on the current operations of the scheme and assesses claimants' experiences with and attitudes toward the compensation process. The study examined 547 files from the Attorney-General's Department and interviewed 110 claimants. The sample was taken from claims lodged in three six-month periods: January to June 1984, 1985 and 1986.

Key issues addressed by the study included:

  • factors influencing the granting and size of payments made under the fund;
  • time taken to process the claim;
  • compensation as part of a court based system; and
  • claimants' experiences and overall assessment of the procedure.

The study concludes that victims had two major criticisms of the current scheme:

  • maximum levels of payment and actual amounts received were too low; and
  • too much time elapsed before applications were finalised.

These results do not indicate a need to radically restructure criminal injuries compensation procedures in South Australia. The following recommendations for further improvements however, are made:

  • increase the maximum compensation available;
  • standardise payments for grief;
  • provide victims with more information about their claim; and
  • increase publicity for the scheme.