Victim Impact Statements
In the ACT, where the defendant or accused has been found guilty of, or pleaded guilty to the offence/s they are charged with, victims have the right to make a Victim Impact Statement (VIS) to the Court at the time of sentencing.
A VIS is a statement made to the Court by or for a victim that contains details of any harm suffered by a victim because of the
offence. A VIS is different to the statement that a victim gives to police about what happened. Making a Victim Impact Statement is voluntary. It can be written or oral. A written statement can be read at court.
A VIS is an important opportunity for victims to communicate directly to the Judge or Magistrate and to say how the offence has affected them and their families.
Victim impact statements can be made by a:
- victim of the offence;
- person who has parental responsibility for a victim of the offence;
- close family member of a victim of the offence;
- carer for a victim of the offence;
- person with an intimate personal relationship with a victim of the offence.
The victim of an offence is:
- a person (primary victim) who suffers harm as a result of the offence; or
- if a primary victim dies as a result of the offence, a person who is psychologically or financially dependent on the primary victim before their death.
A copy of your VIS will be seen by the prosecutor, the offender and any lawyer representing the offender. The Magistrate or Judge who is hearing the matter will also see the VIS. If you decide that you would like your statement read to the court or you would like to give an oral statement, then whoever is present in the Court will also hear your statement.
You can ask someone else to read the VIS to the court on your behalf.
Any media present may report what is said in open court although there are some restrictions to this.
If, as part of their sentence, the offender is to be supervised by an officer from Corrective Services, that officer may also receive a copy of the VIS.
Victim Impact Statements are about the harm that a victim has suffered because of the offence. Harm is defined as:
- physical injury;
- mental injury or emotional suffering (including grief);
- economic loss; and
- substantial impairment of rights accorded by law.
You may want to tell the Court about how your life has changed because of the crime and include the impact on your personal
relationships, social life, employment and studies, where you live and how safe you feel.
Where a person has died as a result of the crime, you may wish to talk about that person and your relationship with them.
There is no set length for a VIS and you can add to, amend or withdraw your statement at any time prior to the statement being given to the Court.
A complete statement can be given to the police officer investigating the case or the prosecutor. It must be given to them prior to the offender being sentenced.
A person may be cross-examined by the defence solicitor about their VIS. Where the offender is self-represented and they wish to cross-examine a person about their statement, they must seek permission from the Court to do so. The offender must indicate to the Court beforehand the nature of their proposed cross-examination.
A statement must be in your own words but if you would like to discuss your statement with someone, Victim Support ACT can assist you in preparing your statement.