Crooks forced to pay victims for crimes

A surprisingly good idea from a Leftist government. They are about to get tossed out on their ears in the forthcoming election so are probably scrabbling for a few conservative votes

New South Wales criminals will be forced to pay into a compensation fund to cover everything from the trauma suffered by victims to damaged property. Making criminals pay and other changes will add up to $20 million to the beleaguered Victims Compensation Fund, which is bleeding money while more than 13,000 victims wait for aid.

A levy of $64 or $148, depending on the severity of the offence, currently applies to offenders facing jail terms. Under NSW Government reforms to occur by the end of the year, it will be extended to a further 65,000 offences. Criminals will pay the levy regardless of how serious their offence is or what they are sentenced to.

Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said it was right that the state's criminals literally paid for their crimes. "It's only fair that people who engage in criminal behaviour contribute to a fund that helps victims rebuild their lives," he said. "The change now means, for example, that a person charged with low-range drink driving will now have to pay the levy if convicted."

Summary offences will attract a $64 levy and indictable offences $148. Criminals convicted of multiple offences will pay for each crime.

Victims of violent crimes can claim up to $50,000 as compensation for injury or trauma, with the family of murder, rape and domestic violence victims can claim the full amount.

The fund has only $60 million but in the 2008-09 financial year it paid $62.9 million to 8212 victims; 13,328 victims were left waiting. Offenders paid just $3.63 million into the fund but the new levy system and changes to unexplained wealth laws are expected to boost the fund by up to $20 million a year.

The unexplained wealth laws introduced earlier this year will see 50 per cent of money confiscated from those involved in criminal activity placed in the fund.

Criminals will also have to cover the damage they cause, with $1500 payments for "any expense incurred" as a result of an injury. Previously the payments, made to those who fall below the threshold for the $50,000 compensation scheme, had been restricted to items such as broken glasses and medical or dental bills.

The levy will help pay for the expanded Victim Assistance Scheme, which begins today. Many claims will now be able to be made online. The only exemptions will be people who have offences dealt with by penalty notice.

South Australia and the Northern Territory currently charge $60 for the most serious offences.


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