Victims and the criminal justice system in South Australia

Criminology Research Council grant ; (24/87)

Two reports have been published from this project by the South Australian Office of Crime Statistics on victims and the criminal justice system in South Australia entitled: Victims of Crime: An Overview of Research and Policy, and Criminal Injuries Compensation in South Australia.

The first 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. The publication concludes with a summary of legislative changes, and of responses to the South Australian Government's 'Bill of Rights' for victims 1985.

The publication on 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 of South Australia 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 concluded that victims had two major criticisms of the current scheme:

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

Victims were not however disillusioned with the process, and although time taken to award compensation was seen as a negative factor by those who had complaints about the system, the majority of claimants were satisfied with the speed with which compensation had been granted.