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  • Reforms now in place which make it easier for victim-survivors of sexual offences to tell their stories
  • Deceased victims of sexual assault - further reforms to legislation
  • Guidance for people applying for permission to publish information about victims of sexual offences
  • Support

Reforms now in place which make it easier for victim-survivors of sexual offences to tell their stories

It is a crime to publish any details likely to identify a victim-survivor of a sexual offence. This law has been in place since 1991. It is intended to protect victim-survivors’ privacy and encourage reporting and prosecution of sexual offending.

Changes to the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act (JPRA) that came into effect on 18 November 2020 make it easier for victim-survivors to speak out about their experiences. The law will still protect the privacy of all victim-survivors who do not wish to be identified.

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Adult victim-survivors

Under the changes, adult victim-survivors will be able to share their experiences in the following ways.

Self-publication

Victim-survivors will be able to self-publish identifying details. They will be able to do this without involving the court, as long as it is not likely to identify other victim-survivors without their permission. This will apply before, during or after criminal proceedings.

Publication by others

Other people will be able to publish identifying information with the permission of the victim-survivor being identified. Examples include publication by a family member or media organisation. If the victim-survivor cannot provide written permission, it must be recorded in another way.

The publication must follow any limits the victim-survivor sets on:

  • the type of information published (for example, their name but not image)
  • who may publish the information
  • when it is published.

This will give victim-survivors more control over when and how their story is told.

The publication must not be likely to identify another victim-survivor who has not given permission.

Identifying information may also be published with court authorisation. The court cannot authorise publication if the victim-survivor does not give permission.

Further guidance for people applying for permission to publish information about victims of sexual offences can be found below.

Child victim-survivors

Child victim-survivors will be able to share their experiences in the following ways.

Self-publication

Children will be free to self-publish in the same way as adults.

Publication by others

Other people will be able to publish identifying information of a child victim-survivor with:

  • permission from the child
  • a supporting statement from an independent authorised person (initially a doctor or psychologist)

If the child cannot provide written permission, it must be recorded in another way.

The supporting statement must state that the child understands:

  • what it means to be identified as a victim of sexual assault
  • the consequences of losing anonymity

This process will help ensure the child’s decision-making is supported and not subject to pressure from family or friends.

The publication must follow any limits the child sets on:

  • the type of information published (for example, their name but not image)
  • who may publish the information
  • when it is published.

The publication must not be likely to identify another victim-survivor who has not given permission.

Identifying information may also be published with court authorisation. The court cannot authorise publication if a child victim-survivor with a supporting statement does not give permission.

Victim-survivors who cannot give permission for publication

Adult without decision making capacity

An adult victim-survivor may not have decision-making capacity. For example, this may be due to a serious intellectual disability. They will be unable to give permission for publication. Court authorisation will be required.

The court must consider:

  • the views of the victim-survivor, and
  • the public interest in disclosure.

The court must not consider the views of the alleged or convicted offender.

Child without supporting statement

Where a child victim-survivor does not have a supporting statement, they cannot provide permission for publication themselves. Court authorisation will be required.

The court must consider:

  • views of the child , and
  • the public interest in disclosure.

The court must not consider the views of the alleged or convicted offender.

Past publications

Victim-survivors will be protected for past self-publications made between 1991 and when the new laws commence.

Other people will be protected for past publications made with the authorisation of an adult victim-survivor. The authorisation does not have to be in writing. This protection will apply to publications made between 1991 and when the new laws commence.

However, these protections will apply only if the publication was not likely to identify another victim-survivor who did not give authorisation.

Other potential limits on publication

Other laws or court orders may prevent the publication of a victim-survivor’s identity. This may occur even where publication would be lawful under the JPRA. The reforms being considered do not change this.

For example, a court may make a suppression order to limit the publication of certain information while a criminal trial is in progress. This is to ensure the accused person gets a fair trial.

Deceased victims of sexual assault - further reforms to legislation

The Judicial Proceedings Reports Amendment Act 2021 has now commenced. The Act will amend the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958 (JPRA) to allow any person, including family and friends of a deceased victim, and the media, to publish identifying details of a deceased victim of a sexual offence without fear of committing an offence. It will also provide a pathway for those close to a deceased victim to seek protection of their loved one’s identity. 

The changes:

  • make it clear that the prohibition on publishing identifying details of a victim of a sexual offence ends on the victim’s death.
  • introduce a victim privacy order (VPO) scheme to protect or restrict the publication of identifying details of deceased victims of sexual offending in appropriate cases.

The Victorian Government has made this decision to align the JPRA with strong public sentiment and law reform trends that support open justice, freedom of expression and raising awareness about sexual and gender-based violence.

The Victorian Government also recognises – through the VPO scheme – that there may be circumstances in which the ongoing protection of a deceased victim’s identity is necessary and warranted.

The Act will commence in stages:

  • temporary provisions which give people wishing to speak about a deceased sexual assault victim a clear mechanism to do so (by obtaining a court order) were reinstated on 22 September 2021 and expire on 14 December 2021
  • the VPO scheme commences on 15 October 2021, and
  • provisions to clarify that the publication prohibition ends on death commences on 15 December 2021.

Guidance for people applying for permission to publish information about victims of sexual offences

Supreme Court of Victoria

County Court Victoria

Magistrates' Court of Victoria

Support

Victims of Crime Helpline

The helpline has skilled victim service officers who provide free information and support to help victims manage the effects of crime and guide them through the legal process.

1800RESPECT

Confidential information, counselling and support. Open 24 hours to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse.

Sexual Assault Crisis Line

A state-wide, after-hours, confidential, telephone crisis counselling service for people who have experienced both past and recent sexual assault. 

  • Phone: 1800 806 292, 5pm weeknights through to 9am the next day and throughout weekends and public holidays
  • Website: www.sacl.com.au

Free legal advice

Two specialist services have been established to provide free, confidential legal advice for any victim survivor or family member impacted by these laws.  

Victoria Legal Aid - special advice service

  • Phone: (03) 9269 0442, Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.   

Women’s Legal Service Victoria special advice service

This special service is staffed by female lawyers who specialise in legal issues arising from violence against women.   

  • Phone: (03) 8622 0600 (metropolitan callers) or 1800 133 302 (regional callers), Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.

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