The rights of victims of crime in Western Australia gained further recognition today with the launch of a new scheme to give victims a say in how offenders make amends for their crime.
Corrective Services Minister Joe Berinson said the Government had drawn on overseas experience to set up a special Victim-Offender Mediation Unit (VMU), providing a constructive new option for courts.
"The VMU will attempt to bring victims and offenders together, accompanied by a trained mediator, to provide offenders with the opportunity to make amends to victims in ways which are acceptable to both parties," he said.
"This can vary from a simple apology, to doing work for the victim, community work or cash compensation.
"The victims will see that their feelings have been recognised, and it will give offenders an insight into the effect of their crime on the victims, while encouraging them to take responsibility for their actions."
Mr Berinson said a similar scheme for juvenile offenders had been established by the Department for Community Services last year.
"We are now going a step further with a program for adult offenders and their victims," he said.
Mediation is aimed at non-violent offences and will be particularly relevant to less serious crimes against property.
Once convicted of an offence, and subject to the offender agreeing to participate, the courts can refer an offender to the VMU program prior to sentencing. The VMU team will then contact the victim to ask if they wish to be involved in mediation.
"If the victim does not want to participate, that will be the end of the matter and the offender will be referred back to the courts for sentencing," Mr Berinson said.
"However, if both parties agree to participate, mediation will then proceed."
Under the jurisdiction of the community-based corrections division of the Department of Corrective Services, the VMU will run as a pilot scheme initially and will be based at Northbridge.
The unit is staffed by a manager, two mediation officers - including an Aboriginal mediation officer - and one clerical support officer.
"The needs and rights of the victims of crime to have greater involvement in the criminal justice process have been recognised by countries throughout the world, and systems similar to the VMU had been operating successfully in Europe," Mr Berinson said.
Overseas victim-offender mediation and reparation schemes were investigated by Mr Berinson and other senior corrections officers during an official visit to Europe last year.
The Minister also noted that the prominent German criminologist Professor Dr Christian Pfeiffer, during a visit to Perth late last year, had strongly advocated victim-offender mediation as a means of affording victims a stronger sense of justice being done.