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Victim impact statements

Information about how to make a victim impact statement and what happens in court when statements are given.

What is a victim impact statement?

A victim impact statement is made by a victim after a person has been found guilty of an offence. It allows the victim to be heard in the court process. It is designed to help the court to determine an appropriate sentence by explaining the impact that the crime has had on them. The victim can make this statement in writing by a statutory declaration. They can also present the statement orally by sworn evidence at court. The statement is often read out at the sentencing hearing.

See s. 8KSentencing Act 1991 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

What can be included in a victim impact statement?

The statement includes details of the way that the offence affected the victim. It includes any injury or loss or damage the victim suffered as a direct result of the offence. The statement can include photos, drawings, poems or other material relating to the impact that the offending has had on the victim.

A statement about any relevant medical reports may be attached to the victim impact statement. These must be signed by the relevant doctor, dentist of psychologist.

Medical matters include dental reports and psychological reports as well as reports of physical injuries.

See ss. 8J, 8L, 8M—Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Statement on behalf of a victim

Another person can make a statement on behalf of a victim if the victim is:

  • under 18 years old
  • incapable of making the statement (for any reason) and the court is satisfied of this
  • not an individual (natural person).

See s. 8K(3)—Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Who needs a copy of the victim impact statement

After writing the statement, the victim sends it to the prosecution, who will then file a copy with the court and give another copy to the offender or their lawyer. The victim must do this within a reasonable time before the offender is sentenced.

See s. 8N—Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Admissibility of the statement

The court may rule that all or part of a statement (or attached reports) is inadmissible. However, a statement is not inadmissible merely because it contains subjective or emotive material. The court may receive the whole impact statement, despite inadmissible material or despite an objection being made about the statement's contents.

If the statement includes inadmissible material, the court must not rely on this when sentencing the offender. There is no need for the magistrate to specify which parts of the victim impact statement they are not relying on.

See s. 8L—Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Victim's participation in the court process

The court may ask a victim or person who has made a statement on behalf of a victim (or relevant medical practitioner) to give evidence in court. This is usually done if the offender or the prosecutor asks for this to happen. These witnesses (including any person called as a witness by the victim or victim representative) may be cross-examined and re-examined during a court hearing.

See ss. 8O, 8P, 8R, 8S—Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Reading out the statement in court

The author of the victim impact statement may ask that any part of the statement be read aloud during the sentencing hearing. The statement may be read by that person or someone they choose or by the prosecutor. The person chosen to read out the statement must agree to this and must be approved by the court.

Following a request, the court must ensure that the relevant and admissible parts of the statement are read out or displayed in open court at the sentencing hearing. The court may direct the reader to the admissible parts of the statement that are relevant to sentencing.

The judge or magistrate may also choose to read out any parts of the victim impact statement during the sentencing process.

See s. 8Q—Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Additional supports

With permission from the court, a victim impact statement may be read aloud from another location and played in court by video. Alternatively, the court may allow:

  • screens to be used to shield the victim who is reading the statement from the direct gaze of the offender
  • an approved support person may be permitted to stand beside the person who is reading the victim impact statement for emotional support
  • limited and specified people to be present while the statement is read out
  • ask the lawyers not to wear robes.

Similar protections may be permitted if a victim or other person giving evidence in relation to a victim impact statement needs to be examined or cross examined in relation to their statement.

See ss. 8R, 8S—Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic)

  • Part 3, Div 1C Victim impact statements
    • s. 8J—defines, 'dentist', 'medical expert', 'medical matters', 'medical report', 'psychologist', and 'medical practitioner'
    • s. 8K—victim may make an impact statement
    • s. 8L—what can be included in the statement
    • s. 8M—medical reports
    • s. 8N—how the statement must be distributed
    • s. 8O—examination of a victim
    • s. 8P—witnesses
    • s. 8Q—reading the statement aloud
    • s. 8R—alternative arrangements and supports for the person reading the statement
    • s. 8S—alternative arrangements for examination

See Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS)

See Victims of Crime—Victim impact statements in Victoria(opens in a new window).

Updated