A Victim Impact Statement is a written statement by the victim
of a crime. When the victim is a child, a parent or family
members, such as grandparent, brother, or sister can provide the statement to the court. Legislation allows a Victim Impact Statement to be received and considered in the Sentencing
of defendants convicted of sexual abuse
crimes. The statement relates to the personal harm suffered as a direct result of an offense. It must contain accurate information about the harmful consequences; for example, short
physical, psychological, emotional, mental, relational consequences. Relevant medical and psychological reports that support the statement can be attached to the Victim Impact Statement and given to the court. The court may accept and consider a Victim Impact Statement at any time after the conviction and before the Sentencing of the offender.
Formal Requirements of a Victim Impact Statement
As well as containing details of the personal harm suffered, the Victim Impact Statement must:
- Identify the victim or victims;
- Include the full name of the person who wrote the statement and be signed and dated by that person;
- Include reference to the fact that the victim does not object to the statement being given in court (where the statement has been written by the victim's representative or a qualified person), and be signed by the victim or the victim's representative to that effect (see examples at the end of this brochure);
- If the family victim is the person preparing the victim impact statement, state who the primary victim is and the nature and duration of the relationship between the primary and family victim (unless the family victim is a relative by blood or marriage);
- If the victim's representative is the person preparing the Victim Impact Statement, state who the primary victim is and the nature and duration of the relationship between the victim and the representative (unless the victim’s representative is a relative by blood or marriage);
- Be in writing and presented in a legible format. It may be either typed or hand-written.
Only one Victim Impact Statement may be made for each primary or family victim
Points to Consider before Preparing a Victim Impact Statement
The Victim Impact Statement becomes part of the court case. As a result:
It is important that the victim or author of the Victim Impact Statement is aware that the defense is entitled to cross-examine them about the contents of the Statement. This may happen because the offender
does not agree with parts of the statement.
A Victim Impact Statement may be made available to the offender, the offender's legal representative, or any other person, but the offender will be prevented from retaining copies of the statement.
The Victim Impact Statement must not contain anything that is offensive, threatening, intimidating or harassing towards the offender. It is about the impact on the victim and is the victim's opportunity to participate in the criminal justice process by fully informing the court about the effects of the crime on the victim.
There is no legal requirement for a Victim Impact Statement to be treated confidentially. There is also no legal requirement to prevent publication. Once the Victim Impact Statement has been handed to the court it becomes a public document, except in relation to children. The media may gain access to the Victim Impact Statement through the court registry and may report on the contents of the Statement that are read or referred to in court.
Other Useful Points when Preparing a Victim Impact Statement
- The prosecutor or other court support person will provide information about preparing the Statement.
- The original signed copy of the Victim Impact Statement should be faxed or handed to the prosecutor. The victim or author of the statement should keep a personal copy.
- It is important that the Victim Impact Statement is given to the prosecutor before the sentencing hearing. This is because a Victim Impact Statement may not be handed to the court after the court has sentenced the offender. The victim or author of the statement should check the exact date and location of the sentencing hearing.
- If the victim or their representative wishes to read out the Victim Impact Statement at court, he/she should discuss this with the prosecutor as soon as possible.
- Victims who are children may write a Victim Impact Statement or have a statement written by a qualified person on their behalf. It is important to consult with children about whether they wish to make a Victim Impact Statement and that they know it is their choice. For children who wish to read their Statement to the court themselves, discuss with the prosecutor about reading the Victim Impact Statement using closed circuit television.
A Victim Impact Statement is given to the court after a person has been convicted and before the person is sentenced. The victim and/or family members of a child victim must advise the prosecutor that she wants a Victim Impact Statement to be given to the court. A victim has the right to information and assistance in the preparation of a Victim Impact Statement to ensure that the full effect of the crime on the victim is placed before the court. The Victim Impact Statement can only refer to those offences that the offender has been charged AND convicted of in the court. Arrangements for the preparation of the Victim Impact Statement may then be made. The Victim Impact Statement may be written by the victim, written by the victim with help from someone else, written by a counselor who is working with the victim, or prepared by a qualified person designated by the prosecutor.
Once a Victim Impact Statement has been accepted by the court, the victim (or their representative) is entitled to read all or part of the statement to the court at a time determined by the court. This reading is voluntary.The victim needs to inform the prosecutor when submitting the Victim Impact Statement that she wishes to read all or part of the Statement in the courtroom. Generally the Judge decides where in the courtroom the statement can be read and will usually accommodate the wishes of the victim.
It is the victim’s choice whether to make a Victim Impact Statement. No one may make a statement on behalf of a victim if the victim objects to the statement being made.
The court also may not interpret the victim’s not making a Statement as the victim not having suffered harm.