Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Appeals) Bill 2019 – Second Reading

Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (16:57): I rise to speak on the Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Appeals) Bill 2019, which is being debated today, and I applaud the government for bringing this to the house as this is something that our party and party leader Derryn Hinch have always argued for. A justice system should not simply be a legal system. We must always prioritise the rights of victims. This bill will improve Victoria’s criminal appeals in summary cases so that in most situations victims and witnesses are relieved of the trauma of a second trial or being made to give evidence again when they do not need to. Our party believes this is common sense and supports the right of the victim over the right of the offender. Further, it is efficient; courts will not need to call on the same witnesses and assemble the same supportive evidence but rather it will be available from the original trial. Hopefully this will relieve the enormous pressures put on our court systems. I know in places in my electorate such as Geelong and Colac there is a feeling of delay, delay, delay. This can often have profound effects on victims of crime. We are looking at years before some criminal trials are able to even take place. I hope our courts will become more efficient as a result of this legislation passing. This bill abolishes de novo appeals from criminal matters in the summary jurisdiction and replaces them with a new appeals process that in most cases will not require victims and witnesses to give evidence again. As we know, a de novo appeal is one where the entire case is heard afresh as a new trial. Currently within the appeals process witnesses are called again to give evidence for a second time, and this allows for cross-examination, intimidation and harassment of the victim who is already required to recount their personal story multiple times, sometimes in front of a packed court, where the perpetrator and their lawyers rely on cumulative trauma to cause the victim to delay and at times abort proceedings. Where is the justice for these victims? Victims of crime have a critical role to play within our justice system and without their willingness to report crime, to cooperate with investigators and prosecutors and to testify in court, it is likely that society would be far worse off. We need to provide them with protection to minimise pain and suffering, and this legislation makes positive steps towards that. Parts of Western Victoria are unfortunately renowned for their history of covering up abuse, particularly sexual abuse. If this bill helps one person to not have to relive their traumatic story again and again in the courts, then it is worth supporting. Considering 3200 de novo cases go through our system each year, I think the benefits of the bill will be much farther felt. Recently I was contacted by a constituent from Ballarat. With her permission, I have her consent for me to raise this in the chamber. When she was 13 years of age, she was sexually assaulted by an adult. Three decades later she won the case against her perpetrator; however, on appeal her case lost. She believes that this was due to her having to repeat her assault statement detailing the harrowing and emotionally traumatic events in front of her perpetrator in a courtroom once again—all this whilst trying to manage her culminating complex post-traumatic stress injury. This example demonstrates how this legislation would have significantly helped and may have also resulted in a more positive outcome for this victim. Although it is being addressed now after many of these victims have felt unnecessary trauma, I have to say, ‘Better late than never’, and I am sure they would say the same too. In particular I would like to draw attention to the importance of dissolving de novo appeals from final orders of the family division of the Children’s Court. Children’s safety and stability should be in the forefront of all of our minds and should be prioritised wholeheartedly. I echo the importance of creating transparency around wrongful convictions. If successfully introduced, this bill will allow a second or subsequent right of appeal if compelling evidence emerges and identifies a failure of justice. It is imperative that we get the balance right between protecting the rights of the wrongly accused whilst minimising negative impacts on the victim. In summary, I support this bill and I support the work this government is doing to assist victims of crime, especially victims of sexual offences.


Keep up with the latest
Western Victoria News.

Subscribe to my newsletter…

Enter your details to keep up to date with what I am doing in Parliament and in the community.