How we can support you

How we can support you

This page provides information about how the OPP can support you during the court process. 

For information about other kinds of specialist support see Other support services.

The people you will meet from the prosecution team

Police informant

During the investigation you will meet the police officer in charge of the investigation. They are called the police informant. The police informant is the main point of contact between the police and the victim.

The police and the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) are different organisations with different roles, however they work together on criminal cases.

OPP solicitor and Victims and Witness Assistance Service (VWAS) social worker

After the case is referred to the OPP, the OPP solicitor and VWAS social worker will contact the victim. They will introduce themselves and ask how you would like to be contacted.

The OPP solicitor prepares the case for court. They are involved in the case as it moves through the court process.

When decisions need to be made about what will happen in the case, the OPP solicitor will collect all of the relevant information and ask a Crown Prosecutor or the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for instructions. This means that the Crown Prosecutor or DPP makes the final decision.

Further information about the role of VWAS social workers is below under Victims and Witness Assistance Service (VWAS).

The OPP solicitor and VWAS social worker will also:

  • provide information to victims about the progress of the case
  • ask for the views of victims before certain decisions are made
  • explain the reasons for certain decisions to victims.

Prosecutor

When the case goes to court, the OPP solicitor will arrange for counsel (the prosecutor) to present the case in court.  This could be a Crown Prosecutor, a private criminal barrister or an OPP solicitor advocate.

Depending on what happens in the case, the prosecutor might be involved in conferences with victims and witnesses before and after a court hearing.

You might hear the prosecutor called different names, for example:

  • prosecution counsel
  • the prosecution barrister
  • counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)
  • Crown counsel
  • the Crown Prosecutor or Senior Crown Prosecutor.

Victims and Witness Assistance Service (VWAS)

The Victims and Witness Assistance Service (VWAS) is part of the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP).

VWAS social workers and OPP solicitors work together to provide information and support to adult victims and witnesses during the court process.

VWAS social workers can provide you with:

  • information about the prosecution process
  • information about your rights and entitlements
  • information about the progress of the case
  • support during meetings with lawyers about the case
  • support to go to court (for example, helping you with arrangements for giving evidence and being in court).

VWAS social workers can also refer you to specialist services for further support. This includes:

  • Child Witness Service
  • Victims Assistance Program
  • Court Network
  • Intermediaries.

Further information about these specialist support services is available here Other support services.

Special arrangements for giving evidence

If you have to give evidence, VWAS social workers can talk to you about the kinds of special arrangements that may be available to you.

Usually a victim or witness will give evidence inside the courtroom, however, there are special arrangements for giving evidence that may be available to some victims and witnesses. This includes children, young people, people with a cognitive impairment and victims of sexual offending or family violence.

Some victims and witnesses are entitled by law to these special arrangements. In other cases, the prosecutor will need to ask for permission from the magistrate or judge.

For example it may be possible to:

  • give evidence away from the court room via a video link
  • have a support person with you when you give evidence (provided this support person is not also a witness)
  • have a court support dog with you when you give evidence
  • have a screen in the court room so that you do not have to see the accused person while you give evidence
  • close the court to the public while you give evidence.

Contact the Victims and Witness Assistance Service

You can contact VWAS by phone or email.

Phone: 03 9603 7425 or 1800 641 927 (toll free) 9am to 5pm

Email: vwasadmin@opp.vic.gov.au

Court support dogs

The OPP has two trained and fully accredited support dogs called Lucy and Kiki who provide comfort to victims and witnesses during the court process.

Lucy works at the OPP. Kiki works at the Child Witness Service.

Lucy is a chocolate labrador who was trained by Assistance Dogs Australia. Lucy can support you:

  • during conferences with the OPP
  • in the court room
  • in the remote witness room.

Lucy is the first dog in Australia to be allowed into the witness box. Lucy is trained to lie next to your feet and be there for pats and cuddles when you are feeling anxious. She also loves games and can help to keep you calm while you are waiting for court to start.

If you would like to have a support dog with you at any stage, talk to the OPP solicitor or VWAS social worker and they will send a request to the program coordinator.  As Lucy and Kiki are in high demand, unfortunately we cannot meet every request.

The OPP must also ask the magistrate or judge for permission to have Lucy sit with you during a court hearing.

Follow Lucy on Instagram @courtdoglucy.

Learn more about Lucy and how she supports victims and witnesses during the court process in this video:

How we will engage with you

The Victims’ Charter Act 2006 sets out principles for how victims and people adversely affected by crime should be treated by police, the OPP and victim support services.

You can expect that we will:

  • treat you with courtesy, dignity and respect
  • consider your particular needs and communication preferences
  • provide you with information about support services, possible entitlements and how to access legal assistance
  • refer you to relevant support services where appropriate.

The OPP also has obligations towards victims to:

  • respect the rights and entitlements of victims as participants in criminal cases
  • provide information about the progress of the case
  • seek their views before certain decisions are made
  • explain the reasons for certain decisions
  • if the victim is a witness – inform the victim about the hearing process, their role as a witness and any special arrangements available to them
  • as far as possible, minimise unnecessary contact at court between the victim and the accused person and their family, and protect the victim from intimidation by those people.

The OPP does not represent victims and witnesses

The OPP supports victims and witnesses during the court process but it is not the lawyer for victims and witnesses. The OPP prepares and conducts cases for the Director of Public Prosecutions who represents the Victorian community.

This means that the OPP cannot:

  • talk about all of the evidence with victims and witnesses
  • influence the evidence of victims and witnesses or help them to fill gaps in their evidence
  • take instructions from victims and witnesses about how the case should be run.

This video explains the relationship between the OPP and victims of crime:

The OPP cannot provide legal advice or financial advice

The OPP cannot provide legal advice or financial advice to victims, their family members, or witnesses.

Further information about financial assistance is available here Your rights and entitlements.

The Financial Assistance brochure explains:

  • the types of financial assistance and compensation that may be available to victims of crime
  • how to access legal advice and assistance.

If you need legal advice, you can:

Communicating with you

If you prefer to talk to us in a language other than English, please let us know.  We can arrange an interpreter for:

  • conferences with the OPP
  • giving evidence in court.

This service is free of charge for you.

When communicating with you we will consider:

  • whether you want to be contacted
  • how you would like to be contacted.

To help us communicate effectively with you:

  • let us know if your contact details change
  • provide information when requested
  • let us know if you need more assistance
  • give us honest feedback so that we can improve.

We can contact you in different ways

VWAS social workers can arrange to meet with victims, witnesses and family members at different stages during the court process.  These meetings can be in person, over the phone or via video conferencing.

At these meetings you can:

  • meet the OPP solicitor and the prosecutor who will present the case in court
  • ask questions about the process and raise any concerns
  • talk to the prosecution team about the process and what to expect.

At certain stages in the process the OPP solicitor and VWAS social worker will also contact victims to:

  • provide updates on case progress
  • ask victims for their views about certain decisions that need to be made in the case
  • explain the reasons for certain decisions.

Privacy and confidentiality

We will not disclose your personal information, including your address and telephone number, except in accordance with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014.

Complaints and feedback

If you would like to raise an issue about a case, your first step should be to contact the OPP solicitor. It may be possible for the OPP solicitor to resolve your issue quickly.

If you feel that the OPP has not met its obligations towards you, you are entitled to make a complaint. This includes victims of crime, family members of victims of crime and witnesses.

On our Complaints and feedback page you can find information about:

  • how to make a complaint
  • how we will respond to your complaint
  • how to provide feedback to the OPP.
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