If the accused person is found guilty, or pleads guilty, there will be a plea hearing before a judge. At the plea hearing both parties will present information they want the judge to take into account when deciding on the sentence.
At the plea hearing you have the opportunity to tell the court, in your own words, about the impact of the crime on you. You do this by making a Victim Impact Statement.
A Victim Impact Statement is different to the statement you make to the police, where you tell them what happened at the time of the crime.
Making a Victim Impact Statement helps the judge understand how the crime has affected you. It is one of a number of factors that will be taken into account when the offender is sentenced.
It is your choice whether or not to make a Victim Impact Statement. If you do not make a Victim Impact Statement, the judge or magistrate will still consider the impact of the crime on you. This will be through evidence given at the trial or information at the plea hearing.
Who can make a Victim Impact Statement?
If you have suffered physical injury, grief, emotional trauma or financial or property loss as a direct result of a crime, you can make a Victim Impact Statement.
You do not have to be the person the crime was committed against to be able to make a Victim Impact Statement. Family members and parents, where the victim is under 18, can make a statement.
How to make a Victim Impact Statement
A Victim Impact Statement must be prepared as a Statutory Declaration. This means that it is a statement signed by you and declared to be true and correct in front of an authorised witness (such as a lawyer, police officer, doctor, dentist, pharmacist, vet, bank manager or State school principal).
Your statement should be in your own words. It does not have to follow a particular form, but if you want some help and guidance you can use a booklet called Guide to Victim Impact Statements. There is also a guide for young people who want to make a Victim Impact Statement called Victim Impact Statements Made Easy available on the Victim Support Agency website.
Your Victim Impact Statement should describe how the crime has affected you. This can include information about:
property loss or damage
You can attach medical or psychological reports to the statement.
You may be able to include pictures, photos, poems, paintings or DVDs in your Victim Impact Statement.
What happens in court?
A copy of your Victim Impact Statement will be provided to the judge and the parties. The convicted offender and their lawyer are also able to read your Victim Impact Statement.
You have the right to read your statement to the judge. Alternatively you can ask the barrister engaged by the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP), a family member or a representative to read it out. In certain circumstances, alternative arrangements can be made for you to read out your statement in a remote witness facility or to have a support person beside you when you read it out.
You should contact the OPP solicitor in advance if you want to make use of these alternative arrangements.
You do not have to attend court on the date your Victim Impact Statement is considered, unless you want to read it out or you are asked to be there. If you are asked to attend court, you might be asked to give evidence about the information contained in your statement; however, it is rare for this to happen.
How to get the guides
For further information and a Victim Impact Statement Form, see the Guide to Victim Impact Statements booklet or the Victim Impact Statements Made Easy booklet for young people, available from police stations, the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) and the Victims of Crime Helpline.