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  • Reforms now in place which make it easier for victim-survivors of sexual offences to tell their stories
  • Express your interest in further consultation regarding the application of the law to deceased victims
  • The following support is available for anyone affected by these laws

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.

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.

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.

Deceased victims

Currently, the law against identifying a victim-survivor of a sexual offence applies indefinitely, including after a victim’s death. This law will continue. This does not prevent reporting of a victim’s identity and other circumstances of offending (i.e. other than the sexual offending) in cases where a victim is killed.

As a temporary measure, the reforms provide a court process to get permission to identify a deceased victim, if there is any doubt.

A person will be able to publish identifying information about a deceased victim if, during their lifetime, the victim:

  • had provided written permission to that person, and
  • at that time, was an adult (with decision making capacity) or a child (with a supporting statement).

Otherwise, court authorisation will be required to publish identifying details about a deceased victim. The court must consider:

  • any views expressed by the victim during their lifetime
  • the views of the victim’s family members (except where a family member is the alleged or convicted offender), and
  • the public interest in disclosure.

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

Consultation on the issue of identifying deceased victims will start in late 2020. The government has committed to introducing further reforms prior to September 2021. Please see below for more information and how to express your interest in participating in this consultation.

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.

Express your interest in further consultation regarding the application of the law to deceased victims

The Attorney-General has asked the department to conduct further consultation on how the law should treat the publication of identifying details of victim-survivors of sexual assault after their death. 

The key objective of this reform is to develop law that empowers victims to control their own stories and respects the importance of families being able to tell these stories after the death of a loved one.

At the same time new laws should take into account that distress can be caused through identification of a deceased person as a victim of sexual assault, particularly where the offending is described in a graphic or degrading way, and respect that some families may wish to maintain anonymity or privacy immediately after the victim’s death or in some cases over the longer term.

A consultation paper will be released on Engage Victoria in late November 2020 and will be available for comment through to the end of January 2021. Meetings with family members of deceased victims will also be held early next year.

If you would like to register your interest in being a part of this consultation, please email consultation@justice.vic.gov.au (External link)

The following support is available for anyone affected by these laws

  • Free information and support from the Victims of Crime Helpline (External link) phone 1800 819 817.
  • Free legal advice
    • Victoria Legal Aid special advice service phone (03) 9269 0442 Monday to Friday between 8am and 5pm.
    • Women’s Legal Service Victoria special advice service - phone (03) 8622 0600 (metropolitan callers) or 1800 133 302 (regional callers) Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.
  • If you or anyone you know need support regarding an experience of sexual assault, you can contact Sexual Assault Crisis Line on 1800 806 292, free call in Victoria. (The Sexual Assault Crisis Line Victoria (SACL) is a state-wide, after-hours, confidential, telephone crisis counselling service for people who have experienced both past and recent sexual assault.)