The Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 provides flexibility in the manner in which applications for financial assistance can be determined by the Tribunal. It does this by providing applicants with the opportunity to appear before a Tribunal member or to have their applications determined in their absence, and provides an opportunity for victims to give voice to the impact of the crime and to receive acknowledgement and validation of their trauma through a hearing process.
The majority of applications are determined by a judicial officer ‘on the papers’, that is, without a hearing. Where applications are straight-forward, this is the most efficient and timely mechanism for the determination of applications for financial assistance.
Where an applicant elects to attend a hearing, the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 allows the Tribunal to operate in a way that is demonstrably victim-centred. At its best, this system operates in a way that optimises both the symbolic and practical assistance available to victims of crime by validating their experiences of trauma, addressing the financial impact of the crime, and in providing financial assistance directed at best achieving that individual victim’s recovery from the crime.
Despite a request for an application to be determined without a hearing, the Tribunal may decide to conduct a hearing of an application if it is not satisfied, based on the material on file, that an act of violence has occurred. In these circumstances, the Tribunal will require evidence at the hearing. The Tribunal may also decide to adjourn its final decision regarding an application for financial assistance to await the outcome of the prosecution for the act of violence.