The case of a gay couple bashed in Blacktown has highlighted the need for a review of the NSW Victims Charter of Rights, according to Peter Rolfe of the Homicide Survivors Association.
The HSA, with other victims rights groups, has called on the Rees Government to re-evaluate the Charter to make its points more binding on police and agencies that deal with victims.
A Senate Inquiry of the Charter currently underway will be the first time the document has undergone any review since its inception 13 years ago.
It currently outlines a victim’s right to be treated with respect, to be given adequate information about the progress of their case and to be provided protection from contact with the accused.
“At the time that the Government decided to formalise a charter of victims rights it was done so predicated on the basis that all persons who were dealt with as victims of crime were already provided a level of service and welfare,” Rolfe explained to Sydney Star Observer.
“The difficulty with this approach is that it makes assumptions about particular approaches. For example, in item one of the Charter, with the expression that a victim ‘should’ be treated [with respect], we want it to be that the Charter insists that the agency will treat people with courtesy, compassion and respect.
“Take a situation like the boys at Blacktown. The police were supposed to give them a police card which referred to the website and the Charter.
“[The Charter] should be well-known, and the only way it can be well-known is for these agencies to be compelled to provide the information at the time that it’s needed.”
The HSA has called for NSW to appoint its own Commissioner of Victims Rights, along the lines of South Australia.
“What Aaron and Greg [the couple in the Blacktown case] are going through, that should never have happened. The cop who was involved with it, he should be re-trained and ideally, they would be able to appeal to the Commissioner for Victims Rights, who would be a totally independent person with the powers of an ombudsman.”
info: The date for written submissions to the Senate Inquiry has been extended to September 11. For more information on the Charter and Inquiry visit: www.lawling.nsw.gov.au/vs.