Women’s Legal Service Queensland (WLSQ) supports the introduction of a Queensland Human Rights Bill and congratulates the Palaszczuk Government, but the Service is concerned that the rights of victims to a fair criminal trial has not been acknowledged, while the bill upholds the rights of the criminal defendants.
Many victims of sexual and domestic violence face multiple structural barriers in their interactions with the criminal justice system including in reporting criminal offences to the police.
According to the findings of the 2016 Personal Safety Survey (PSS) conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the majority of women who experience sexual violence (nine out of ten) did not contact police (87 per cent or 553,900).
Recognition of victims’ rights is consistent with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s recommendations of reform to the criminal justice system.
WLSQ CEO, Angela Lynch says the Queensland Government should be commended for working to establish a Human Rights Act.
“The Human Right Act is a fantastic opportunity to provide many vulnerable Queenslanders an avenue of redress that otherwise does not currently exist. But we owe it to these Queenslanders to get it right. We need to make the criminal justice system fairer for all including victims.”
Ms Lynch says the Service is concerned that the Bill does not recognise many circumstances in justice proceedings where women are not treated with dignity, equality, or afforded equal protection.
“Already victims of crime are often not afforded fair treatment by our criminal justice systems. In reporting a sexual assault victims are made to recall incidents at the public front counters of police stations, often will not receive follow up phone calls, are not told where the investigation is up to, if it has concluded or the outcome. This is a very standard experience of sexual violence complainants.”
“The Human Rights Bill in its current form will have far reaching and deleterious consequences for victims of domestic and sexual violence in Queensland. If this goes through as is, every new Bill will need to be harmonised with this one and legislation interpreted by judges and decision makers in a manner compatible with this Bill.”
“Without a counterbalance to the rights of a fair trial for criminal defendants by also recognising the rights of victims, it may become more difficult in Queensland to pass victim sensitive legislation or for legislation to be interpreted in a victim sensitive way.”
- Victims of sexual and domestic violence already face multiple structural barriers in their interactions with the criminal justice system which manifests in low reporting and conviction rates.
- The current protection for victims in Queensland contained in the “The Victim’s Charter of Rights” has no legal enforceability.
- If this Bill is passed as currently drafted, a defendant’s right to fairness in criminal trials will be legislatively elevated as a human right over and above those of victims leading to less victim-oriented future legislation and decision making.
- Specific amendments are required regarding victims’ rights: to safety from the perpetrator; to interpreters and aides needed for communication; to privacy and confidentiality; to be treated with courtesy, compassion, respect and dignity, taking into account the victim’s needs; to have matters proceed without unreasonable delays; of child complainants in criminal trials; and to be provided with information about the criminal process in a reasonable and
- WLSQ supports the general right to freedom from violence, abuse and neglect and that the current economic, social and cultural rights that recognise the right to education and health in the Bill be extended to legal assistance.