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LIV welcomes the ability for families, partners and close friends of deceased sexual assault victims to speak out

LIV welcomes the ability for families, partners and close friends of deceased sexual assault victims to speak out

By LIV Media

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Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) welcomes changes to the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958 proposed by the Victorian Government last week, which will allow families of sexual assault victims to speak out.

The Judicial Proceedings Reports Amendment Bill (“the Bill”), introduced in Parliament on Tuesday 3 August, seeks to amend to the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958, which currently requires family members, partners, or friends of the deceased victim to obtain a court order to speak publicly about the crimes against their loved ones.

LIV president Tania Wolff welcomed the amendments included in the Bill, noting that the legislation needs to strike a delicate balance in protecting the rights of non-consenting victim survivors with the interests of affected persons.

“A crucial aspect of all laws is how they consider and protect the rights of victims. These changes enable the loved ones of deceased victims to continue to advocate on their behalf.” Ms Wolff said.

The Bill also seeks to clarify that the prohibition on publishing details likely to lead to the identification of a victim of a sexual offence ends upon the death of that victim.

It also introduces a new victim privacy order (‘VPO’) scheme. This scheme will enable a person with a sufficient interest (for example a family member, partner or close friend of a deceased sexual offence victim) to apply for a VPO to protect the identity and privacy of the deceased. Importantly, a convicted or alleged perpetrator cannot apply, even if they are a family member or close friend. Whilst the duration of a VPO is capped at five years, an application can be made to the court to extend the VPO.

The LIV reiterates its position that victims ought to maintain their right to privacy after their death, and that the publication prohibition should not end at this point.

“While the VPO scheme would go some way to protecting the privacy of victims, this should be the default setting,” Ms. Wolff said.

“It is encouraging that there are commitments within the Bill to review the scheme after two years, and that there are some safeguards in place such as the requirement to provide a statement of reasons for making or a extending a victim privacy order.”

The LIV also notes that the Bill has not considered a period of privacy, between the death of a victim-survivor and the end of the publication prohibition, to allow families and friends a reasonable period to grieve and adequate time to seek a VPO, if required.

The LIV urges the Victorian government to consult, listen and engage with relevant stakeholders, advocates, experts and the broader community, to ensure that the Bill meets the intended purposes, particularly as the Bill “sunsets” in two years.

 


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