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Access to Justice


Access to Justice

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									Access to Justice
                                                          Access to Justice

Fair, affordable and accessible justice

Victoria today is a safer and fairer place to live, with a lower crime rate
and a justice system more in touch with the community. Labor knows
that it’s not enough to be tough on crime – we have to be smart about
tackling the causes.

Over the next four years a re-elected Bracks Labor Government will

   Appoint more community lawyers in rural and regional Victoria to
   provide additional outreach services to Victorians in need.
   Fund a network of dedicated family violence duty lawyers to assist
   and represent victims at court.
   Provide Legal Aid support to Victorians experiencing hardship
   because of the serious effects of drought.
   Expand Community Legal Services in Rosebud.
   Improve access to advice and support at court for those
   experiencing homelessness.
   Give Victorians a chance to resolve civil legal disputes at less cost.

   Increase pain and suffering compensation for victims of crime by
   30% and improve access to compensation from offenders.
   Support victims of sexual offences through the prosecution process
   by establishing a new dedicated prosecution team, funding
   specialist lists in the Magistrates’ and County Courts, establishing
   two new multi-disciplinary centres at Frankston and Mildura and
   funding training for female forensic nurses.
   Develop new, stand alone family violence legislation as part of a
   comprehensive response to the Victorian Law Reform Commission
   recommendations on family violence.
   Expand Court Network to provide more assistance to witnesses
   and court users and ensure they have the information they need.
   Rewrite the Coroner’s Act and upgrade Coronial Services to provide
   better information, support and counselling for grieving families.

   Take further action to phase out the use of suspended sentences.
   Ensure judicial officers undertake continued professional
   development to stay abreast of community attitudes and legal
   Tighten our criminal laws to create more consistency and certainty.
   Upgrade Melbourne’s Supreme Court, in keeping with its heritage

                                                       Access to Justice

    Expand the role of the Equal Opportunity Commission and promote
    awareness of human rights issues for all Victorians.
    Implement the next stage of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement and
    the Bracks Government’s response to the recommendations of the
    Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Labor has a vision for the justice system, a vision embodied in Labor’s
10-year blue print, the Justice Statement. Labor’s balanced approach to
justice will continue to make Victoria a safer and better place to live,
work and raise a family.

Steve Bracks                                Rob Hulls
Premier                                     Attorney-General

                                                        Access to Justice

Striking the balance for fair and effective

Victorians want to live in a safe, fair and strong community and an
effective and accessible justice system is integral to that.

Over the last seven years, the Bracks LaborGovernment has cut the
crime rate, given a voice to victims and made Victoria a safer, fairer and
better place to live and raise a family.

We know that it’s not enough to be tough on crime. We have to be
smart about the way we tackle the causes of crime to stop people re-

We also need to respond to individual victims of crime with respect and

Victims of violent crime are now better understood, more supported and
more likely to receive a sensitive response from the justice system.

A strong, independent judiciary is now engaging more with the
community so that individuals do not feel isolated from our court

Labor will build on this record by making justice even more affordable
and accessible, increasing support for victims of crime and reforming
sentencing and criminal justice legislation to better reflect community

Through the Justice Statement, the Government’s blueprint for the legal
system over the next decade and beyond, we have started positive and
constructive reform.

We are working hard for a justice system in which Victorians can stay
confident, with more police on the streets, a fairer, more accessible and
responsive justice system and a corrections system that breaks the
cycle of re-offending.

Labor believes in making legal processes simpler, cheaper and more
effective – so every Victorian can use them, whatever they earn,
wherever they live.

The Bracks Labor Government stands for balance, for constantly striving
to do better, for asking where the law can be made clearer, simpler and
fairer and where the reach of justice can be extended. By continuing to
reform the justice system we will build stronger communities and make
Victoria an even better place to live, work and raise a family.

                                                         Access to Justice

How justice has improved in seven years

Since 1999, Victoria’s justice system has been overhauled. Police
numbers are up by 1,600, crime rates are down by 22%, the legal
system is more accessible and affordable and victims of crime have a
real voice in the courts. Victoria’s justice system also has a plan – a 10
year blue print on which we can build. Specific achievements include:


    Introduced the Sex Offenders Monitoring Act and established the
    Sex Offender Register to track sex offenders in the community
    after the end of their sentence.
    Abolished suspended sentences for serious offences and increased
    the penalties for crimes in areas such as commercial drug
    trafficking, hit and run driving and sexual offences against children.
    Reformed the laws of provocation and self-defence and
    strengthened laws relating to culpable driving and cyber stalking.
    Strengthened laws relating to confiscation of the assets of
    criminals, organised crime, sex slavery, anti-terrorism and sabotage.
    Established a specialist Drug Court in Dandenong to steer drug
    offenders away from the cycle of drugs and crime.
    Established the Sentencing Advisory Council, to allow the
    community to have input into sentencing.


    Created the Victims Charter to enshrine and promote the rights of
    Restored state-funded pain and suffering compensation for victims
    of crime.
    Introduced new laws to improve the court experience for vulnerable
    witnesses in sex offence cases.
    Changed the Sentencing Act to allow Victim Impact Statements to
    be read out in court.
    Established a Victim’s Helpline, Support Agency, and a Register to
    better inform victims of an offender’s progress through the
    corrections system.
    Established family violence divisions of the Magistrates’ Court at
    Ballarat and Heidelberg and specialist family violence services at
    Melbourne, Sunshine, Werribee and Frankston to respond more
    effectively to family violence.

                                                        Access to Justice


   Increased funding to Legal Aid and Community Legal Centres by
   over $31 million.
   Established new Legal Aid offices in the Wimmera, Shepparton and
   Ballarat and new Community Legal Centres in Whittlesea,
   Cranbourne, Melton, Boronia and Loddon Campaspe.
   Established a Neighbourhood Justice Centre at Collingwood to
   involve the community in local justice and steer offenders towards
   more constructive paths.
   Opened new courthouses in Wodonga, Warrnambool, Mildura and
   the Latrobe Valley with a further court complex under construction
   at Moorabbin. Court houses in Bendigo, Wangaratta and Horsham
   have been upgraded.
   Appointed mediators around the state to maximise opportunities for
   speedier, less costly dispute resolution.


   Enacted a Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities to make
   sure those who make decisions about Victorians do so in
   accordance with civil and political rights.
   Re-established the Law Reform Commission.
   Established the Privacy Commissioner to safeguard the privacy of
   all Victorians.
   Entered into a groundbreaking Aboriginal Justice Agreement to
   reduce the overrepresentation of Kooris in Victoria’s prisons.
   Helped Indigenous offenders break the cycle of crime with the
   introduction of Koori Courts in Shepparton, Broadmeadows,
   Warrnambool and Portland, Mildura and Gippsland and opened a
   Children’s Koori Court.
   Increased the representation of women and other under-
   represented groups in judicial office, better reflecting the diversity
   of the community.

                                                        Access to Justice

The contrast with the Liberal opposition

The previous Liberal Government nobbled Victoria’s independent
watchdogs and cut access to justice across our towns and suburbs.

In one callous stroke of the pen, the Liberals abolished pain and
suffering compensation for all victims of crime.

The independence of our courts and the Director of Public Prosecutions
(DPP) was undermined, the Law Reform Commission was abolished,
legal aid funding was cut, 13 courts were closed and rural Victorians
were denied access to justice.

Despite now claiming to respect the independence of the judiciary, the
Liberals constantly attack judicial decisions and talk up the use of
mandatory minimum sentences.

Despite being critical of some aspects of the suspended sentencing
regime, the Liberals continue to change their position on suspended
sentences. In 2005 they stated that ‘suspended sentences should be
retained as a sentencing option’, yet this year their position has

The Liberals have no long-term plan, no vision and no policies to stop
the cycle of re-offending. They opposed the establishment of the
Neighbourhood Justice Centre, which is designed to stop the cycle of
re-offending and involve communities in holding offenders accountable
for their actions.

The Liberals abolished pain and suffering compensation when last in
office and have no track record of supporting victims through
appropriate state-funded compensation or services.

The Liberals have no coherent policy on family violence, instead
supporting their Federal counterparts’ push to make it harder for women
to raise allegations of family violence in the context of family law

The Liberals ignored the debate on human rights and opposed our new
Human Rights Charter as a ‘repository of lost causes’.

In four years the Liberal Shadow Attorney General has only asked seven
questions in Parliament on issues in his justice portfolio. It seems that
justice is not even on the Liberal radar.

                                                         Access to Justice

Our vision for the future: what Labor will do

Our vision is of a justice system that gives a fair go for all


1. Labor will increase community legal services across the state.

Labor believes everyone is entitled to legal assistance and information –
and to the people and technology that can provide them – regardless of
what they earn or where they live.

Labor has already demonstrated its belief in the importance of
affordable legal services and will lead a sweeping $8.8 million package
of new Community Legal services for Victorians in need. In particular,
Labor recognises the growing legal need of Victorians in rural and
regional areas. Labor will:
     Fund a network of 5 Rural and Regional Community lawyers at
     Community Legal Centres around the state. This network will
     provide legal advice, assistance and outreach to smaller regional
     and rural towns, particularly those experiencing hardship, and will
     reach areas surrounding Ballarat, Bendigo, Warrnambool and Colac,
     Mildura, Wodonga and Wangaratta.
     Labor will also expand the CLC presence in Rosebud to meet the
     growing need in that area.
     Support a change to Legal Aid guidelines to enable families
     struggling as a result of the serious effects of drought in rural and
     regional areas to get legal assistance for civil matters such as debt
     refinancing, mortgage and contractual issues.

Labor also recognises that legal advice and assistance, particularly at
court, is crucial to those Victorians experiencing family violence and will:
    Fund a network of 7.5 dedicated Family Violence Community
    Lawyers and increase resources to provide assistance at courts to
    help people apply for family violence intervention orders. Additional
    assistance will be available when Family Violence hearings are held
    at Dandenong, Sunshine, Broadmeadows, Ringwood, Werribee,
    Frankston, Melbourne, Latrobe, Geelong, Warrnambool and Colac.

    As part of this network, a further Family Violence position at the
    Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Service will assist
    Indigenous Victorians experiencing family violence in the
    Melbourne, Barwon and Gippsland regions.

Building on our existing Family Violence Court divisions at Ballarat and
Heidelberg, this network will be the first step in a comprehensive
response to the Law Reform Commission’s report on family violence.
Labor will also develop stand alone legislation to better protect women
and children from family violence.

                                                       Access to Justice

This network will complement a state wide boost to Community Legal
Centres, with Victoria Legal Aid funds establishing an Older Persons’
Legal Centre and increasing services at the Refugee Immigration Legal
Centre, the Environment Defenders Office, the Mental Health Legal
Service, the Women’s Legal Service and an outreach of Fitzroy Legal
Service at the new Neighbourhood Justice Centre.

The funds will also provide an increased allocation to all Community
Legal Centres for new computers and salary increases.

This comes on top of nearly $20 million the Bracks Government has
committed to Community Legal Centres through Victoria Legal Aid,
including $8.9 million over four years for the creation of four new
Centres in Melton, Bendigo, Boronia and Cranbourne, who will share in
a further boost to their services through this unprecedented package of
support for affordable legal services.

2. Labor will improve access to justice for homeless Victorians.

Labor will allocate $0.8 million to improve access to justice for homeless
Victorians. We will establish a Homeless Person’s Liaison Officer at
Melbourne Magistrates’ Court and increase funding to the Homeless
Person’s Legal Clinic.

For the first time homeless people will have a dedicated contact at court
who can advise and support them and link them into the
accommodation and other services they need, reducing the potential for
further court appearances. Expanded outreach to homelessness
agencies by legal volunteers and the Homeless Person’s Legal Clinic
will complement the court-based assistance.

3. Labor will give Victorians more opportunities to resolve legal
   disputes at less cost.

Labor will:
    Simplify court processes for civil disputes following the outcomes
    of the Law Reform Commission’s civil procedure review.
    Improve coordination and integration of alternative dispute
    resolution across the justice system.
    Modernise the office of Supreme Court Master, enabling this
    position to become one of Associate Judge, to whom matters may
    be referred for mediation.

                                                        Access to Justice


Labor believes that governments have a responsibility to acknowledge
the pain and suffering of victims of crime, and of grieving families, on
behalf of the community.

4. Labor will increase pain and suffering compensation by 30% and
improve access to compensation from offenders.

Having re-introduced pain and suffering compensation, Labor will build
on its record and increase payments to victims by 30%. The new
maximum payment for pain and suffering compensation will increase
from $7,500 to $10,000 from January 2008.

Labor will also ensure that a judge sentencing an offender must
consider compensating the victim of the crime as part of the sentencing
process, removing the need for victims or the DPP to apply for

5. Labor will complete reforms of how sexual assault cases are
dealt with in the justice system so that victims are treated with
sensitivity and respect.

Labor will implement the programs funded in the 2006-07 Budget to:
    Create two new multi-disciplinary centres at Frankston and Mildura.
    Provide funding for specialist lists in the Magistrates’ and County
    Courts and establish a dedicated prosecutions team in the Office of
    Public Prosecutions to deal with sexual offences.
    Establish a state-wide network of trained female forensic nurses to
    help ensure victims of sexual assault are examined in the most
    timely and sensitive way.
    Implement legislative change to make it easier for sexual assault
    victims to give evidence, for example via closed circuit TV.
    Establish a specialist Child Witness Support Program. A specialist
    team of six support workers will help prepare child witnesses for
    court and support them during and after the case, providing a link
    with police and prosecutors and victims’ services.

6. Labor will enact new, stand alone Family Violence legislation as
part of a comprehensive response to the Victorian Law Reform
Commission’s recommendations on family violence.

Labor will:
    Strengthen protection for women and children by making the law
    more comprehensive, recognising different forms of violence that
    affect them, and with a clearer focus on their safety.
    Improve court processes and aim to reduce the need for multiple
    court appearances before victims obtain protection.
    Maximise the chance for women and children to remain safely in
    their own homes.

                                                         Access to Justice

7. Labor will expand Court Network to provide more assistance to
witnesses and court users to make courts more accessible and

Attending court is often a confusing and frightening experience. Court
Network volunteers provide a valuable service, helping people navigate
our court system. Labor will support its expansion by establishing the
Blue Jacket project, which will provide more clearly identifiable
volunteers to provide directions, information, assistance with basic
enquiries and provide scheduled court tours and other services.

8. Labor will strengthen the Coronial system with new legislation
and more care in the handling of grieving families.

Labor also aims to support grieving families involved in the Coronial
system. Labor is already implementing improvements to Coronial
Services and will:

    Develop and enact new Coroner’s legislation to support grieving
    families in their search for answers about the sudden death of a
    loved one.
    Improve family support and counselling services.
    Ensure staff are better trained to communicate with and support
    grieving families.
    Improve identification processes and facilities at the court to treat
    grieving families with compassion and respect.


9. Labor will take further action towards phasing out suspended
sentences and tighten our criminal laws in response to community

Labor knows that, to be tough on crime, we have to be smart about
sentencing, making a range of mechanisms available to address the
severity of each case and make our criminal laws and procedures as
effective as possible. To retain the confidence of the community, the
justice system must listen to community expectations.

Labor will:
    Take further action to phase out suspended sentences by
    responding to recommendations of the Sentencing Advisory
    Council and replace them with new, transparent sentencing
    Begin the most significant reform of criminal legislation in 150
    years, following the current reviews of the Crimes Act, Evidence
    Act and Bail Act, to tighten our laws, give them more consistency
    and create a better chance of early guilty pleas and successful

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                                                          Access to Justice

10. Labor will introduce a requirement for ongoing education for
the judiciary, in consultation with the heads of Victoria’s courts.

The independence of the judiciary is strengthened by the community’s
confidence in it. The Bracks Government established the Judicial
College of Victoria to support the judiciary to stay up to date with
developments in the law, in technology and in community attitudes. To
build on the success of the College, Labor will work with the courts to
introduce a requirement for ongoing education for the judiciary.

11. Labor will upgrade Melbourne’s legal precinct in line with its
heritage values.

Under Labor’s Legal Precinct Masterplan, Victoria will have the leading
court facilities in Australia. Since coming to office, the Bracks
Government has allocated more than $100 million to court
infrastructure, building brand new complexes in regional Victoria and
upgrading existing ones throughout the state.

In the first stage of the re-development of the Supreme Court, Labor
has committed $32 million over the next two years to its up-grade,
striking a balance between protecting its heritage values and delivering
justice in sound facilities. The up-grade will:

    Increase security for major criminal trials.
    Improve public safety and the safety of court staff.
    Provide additional courtrooms in the County Court to expand
    capacity for major crime trials.


12. Labor will expand the role of the Equal Opportunity
Commission and promote awareness of human rights issues for all

All Victorians are entitled to a fair go, to have their rights protected and
to be free from discrimination. Following the introduction of the Charter
of Human Rights and Responsibilities, Labor will:

    Commence Government related aspects of the Charter so that all
    decisions about Victorians and their families are in accordance with
    civil and political rights.
    Expand the capacity of the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights
    Commission to address systemic discrimination against
    disadvantaged members of the community.
    Conduct a broad human rights education and training campaign for
    the community and the public sector.
    Begin a legislative review of the Charter in 2009 and provide for
    independent monitoring of its implementation.

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                                                      Access to Justice

13. Labor will implement the next stage of the Aboriginal Justice
Agreement and the Government’s response to the Royal
Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Labor believes in the value of symbolic and practical reconciliation and
the Aboriginal Justice Agreement (AJA) is a remarkably successful
partnership between Labor and Victoria’s Indigenous communities. In its
first phase, the AJA saw the creation of a Koori Court Network that
dramatically reduced rates of re-offending; programs that reduced
Indigenous contact with the criminal justice system; increased Koori
leadership in justice and created positive connections between Koori
communities and government. The Agreement’s second phase will:

    Expand the Koori Court network to three further locations.
    Establish programs to keep young Koori people in education and
    Establish mentoring programs to guide offenders away from re-
    Strengthen networks on the ground to develop local solutions to
    local issues.

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                                                          Access to Justice


RECURRENT                      2007-08    2008-09   2009-10   2010-11   TOTAL
INITIATIVES                      $m         $m        $m        $m        $m

Expand community legal              2.2      2.2       2.2       2.2      8.8
Increase the maximum                1.1      2.3       2.4       2.6      8.4
payment for crime
Require judicial officers to        0.6      0.6       0.6       0.6      2.4
do professional
Homeless Persons Legal              0.2      0.2       0.2       0.2      0.8
Blue Jacket Project                 0.1      0.1       0.1       0.1      0.4

TOTAL RECURRENT                     4.2      5.4       5.5       5.7     20.8
Less: previous funding
VLA                                 1.4      1.4       1.4       1.4      5.6
Court fees                          0.1      0.1       0.1       0.1      0.4
TOTAL IMPACT ON                     2.7      3.9       4.0       4.2     14.8

         For further details on Labor’s policies and team, please contact
                       Labor’s election hotline              1800 353 956
                       Web www.alpvictoria.com
                       Email info@vic.alp.org.au

                   Printed on Australian recycled paper

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