Victim impact statement
A Victim Impact Statement (VIS) is an important document. It gives you an opportunity to tell the defendant and the court how the crime has affected (or is affecting) you. The court can take this information into account when sentencing the convicted person. It can also take into account your personal circumstances. The court may order the defendant to pay you compensation. If you want the court to consider ordering compensation directly from the defendant, you should complete a VIS Victim Impact Statement (PDF 273KB)
You do not have to provide a VIS if you do not want to. It is entirely your choice. You can change your mind at any time before submissions on sentence begin. If you choose to make a VIS, you should discuss this with the police investigating officer or prosecutor. If you have been dealing with a Witness Assistance Officer (DPP) you should talk with that person.
You can fill out the Vicitm Impact Statement form or ask the police or another person to do this for you. You can also decide not to fill it out, or ask a victim support service or the Witness Assistance Service to help you with it. The form is available from the police, other justice agencies, victim support agencies or under Resources
If you believe it is relevant, you can provide any of the following details:
- Details of the full effects of the crime including financial, social, emotional, psychological and physical harm done or suffered by you or your family
- Where the crime has resulted in death, you may wish to write about your loved one who was killed - who that person was to you, the life they led, your relationship, and how your life has not changed. You may also include a photograph of the loved one and their date and place of birth
- If you were injured, a description of those injuries, and details of any physical effects the crime has had on you and your family
- You may wish to comment about changes in lifestyle. For instance, how have your social commitments changed? How has the crime affected your employment/education? Have you had any changes in accommodation?
- You may wish to include details of the financial or economic impact of the crime, for example, lost wages, medical or other treatment expenses and transport costs
- In the case of property damage, the cost of repairs/replacement
- Outline any request for compensaiton directly from the defendant that you wish the judge or magistrate to consider (see compensation)
- Any other important information related to the offence that you would like the judge or magistrate to consider during sentencing.
Importantly, you should not use the Victim Impact Statement to describe the crime or to abuse the offender (or anyone else).
If a matter takes some time to reach the sentencing stage you may be asked to update your VIS and provide more recent information about the effects of the crime on you. You should keep a copy of your VIS for future reference and to assist you should any updates be required. You must check your statement to make sure it is accurate.
The prosecution, defence counsel, the defendant and the judge or magistrate need to see your VIS before it can be presented to the court. The defendant is entitled to know about the contents and read it, but is rarely given a copy to keep.
You might be asked questions about the content of your statement by the judge, magistrate or the lawyer representing the convicted person, however this is uncommon. The prosecutor involved will advise you in advance if this is required.
The prosecutor will give your written VIS to the court, or they might speak about your statement when making submissions on the sentence. Unless you are told to come to the court, you do not have to attend court for your VIS to be presented and taken into account by the court. As a victim of crime, you have a right to be present in the court, unless a law prohibits you or the court makes a closed court order.
If you are a victim of an indictable offence or any other offence that results in the death of a loved one or serious harm, you are allowed to read your VIS to the defendant and the court. It you are the victim of any other offence, you can ask the prosecutor to ask the judge or magistrate to allow you to read your VIS to the court. Alternatively, you can ask that someone else be allowed to read your statement to the court. Sometimes the Commissioner for Victims’ Rights will read a victim’s statement, especially when the victim has no other person to help.
If you want to know more about reading your statement to a court, please ask the investigating officer, prosecutor or Witness Assistance Officer. You can also talk to someone at the Victim Support Services; Yarrow Place (Rape & Sexual Assault Services); or one of the other services listed in the booklet on Victim Impact Statements (see www.voc.sa.gov.au).
If your VIS is read out in the court, it can be reported in the media. If you do not want this to happen, you should talk with the prosecutor. If you have a Witness Assistance Officer helping you, you should also talk with that officer. The prosecutor might ask the court to order that information from your VIS not be reported by the media.
If your statement is not read out, your VIS goes on the court’s file. Unless the court gives permission, a member of the public (including the media) may not inspect or obtain a copy of your written statement. Even if the court allows someone to inspect or copy all or part of your statement, the court can prohibit the publication or use of your statement.
Sometimes the victim’s view on a fair and appropriate sentence is useful, so you might choose to suggest a sentence; however, this is for the court to determine. If you want to make a statement about the sentence you would like to see the court impose on the defendant, you should talk with the prosecutor and/or the Witness Assistance Officer. You might, for example, want the court to order that the defendant not contact you or, as mentioned above, order the defendant to compensate you.
Sometimes the defendant will ask the judge or magistrate to take into account another offence or other offences for which he or she has been charged and admits but has not been convicted. If you are the victim of such an offence, you also have the right to make a victim impact statement.
If you are one of many victims, such as happens when a school is destroyed by an arsonist or when a drug-dealer’s activities have impacted on a neighbourhood, you may join those affected to make a neighbourhood impact statement. If you want to know more about a neighbourhood impact statement, you should talk to the investigating police officer, prosecutor or Witness Assistance Officer.