27 September 2023

Commission blows whistle on justice system

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The ACT Human Rights Commission has welcomed the Territory’s response to a highly critical 2021 report detailing the experiences of sexual assault victim-survivors in the Territory’s justice system.

Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates said the ACT’s response to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Reform Program Steering Committee’s Listen. Take Action to Prevent, Heal and Believe report indicated it was taking the concerns of victim-survivors on board.

“This is a very hopeful day for the Territory and I’m going to be carefully monitoring and contributing to the implementation of the recommendations endorsed by the government today,” Ms Yates said

Releasing the Territory’s response, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Yvette Berry said the ACT had agreed, or agreed in principle, to the majority of the Committee’s 24 recommendations, noted certain elements of a law reform recommendation for further consideration and declined to override the rule established in a 2014 case that prevents prosecutors from making upper and lower limit sentencing recommendations.

“The Report made for hard reading,” Ms Berry said.

“It highlighted the current system was not meeting the needs of victim survivors, often causing further harm,” she said.

“The reforms recommended in the report were wide ranging and extensive.

“They seek to tackle the underlying drivers of sexual violence and to greatly improve supports to victim survivors.”

Ms Berry said funding commitments to be outlined in the 2022-23 Budget would help respond to a foundational set of strategic recommendations to commence the reform process.

The Minister said the upcoming funding commitments included provisions for the establishment of a structured Victim Survivor Consultation Program; a 10 year strategy for the prevention of sexual violence; the role of Independent Sexual Violence Advisers in the ACT; a Multidisciplinary Centre pilot to co-locate specialist sexual violence responses and services; and a Specialist Services Review.

“To support the implementation of the recommendations and oversee the reforms, the ACT Government will also appoint a Coordinator-General for the Prevention of Sexual Violence in accordance with recommendation 24,” Ms Berry said.

“This role will not only work across government but also consult broadly with stakeholders to inform priorities in the phased implementation of the recommendations to improve how the ACT Government responds to sexual violence,” she said.

The Committee’s 217-page Report can be accessed at this PS News link and the Territory’s 28-page response can be accessed at this link.

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