Following intense lobbying from survivors of sexual assault and advocacy groups the Victorian Government has this morning announced much needed amendments to the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act that will again allow survivors to tell their stories without having to  first seek permission from the courts.

It comes after earlier this year, media reported that changes in legislation had resulted in sexual offence survivors being fined thousands of dollars, and even sent to prison for publishing information that would reveal the identity post-conviction of their offender.

The reforms were developed in close consultation with survivors and those who work with them following a series of roundtables in September, including members of the Let Her Speak campaign, the Victims Of Crime Consultative Committee, the Victim-Survivors’ Advisory Council and the Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault.

Not simply limited to the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act the bill that was introduced will also amend  both the Defamation Act 2005 and the Limitation of Actions Act 1958, implementing some 19 recommendations made by the Council of Attorneys-General Model Defamation Law Working Party. These changes will include the introduction of a new serious harm threshold and a new public interest test.

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 Speaking to these much-needed amendments, Victorian Attorny General Jill Hennessy said in a statement that, “Surviving sexual assault is not a source of shame – our laws will enable victim-survivors to speak publicly, on their terms. We will protect victim-survivors’ rights to share their story – giving them the opportunity to heal and advocate for change so that we rid society of this violent behaviour.

“I thank the victim-survivors and advocates who offered their experience and expertise. Your insight and courage helped shape these laws and will protect the rights of anyone who speaks out about sexual assault.”

It is widely hoped that the change will ensure victim-survivors are better protected when speaking up by adding clear and fair tests to defamation cases.

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