The Sentencing Act provides that magistrates, in sentencing defendants, must consider the crime’s impact on the victim of the crime (s 5(2)(daa)). Victims are allowed to make a victim impact statement – usually by means of a statutory declaration (and occasionally, by sworn evidence in court) – which contains details of their injury, loss or damage (s 8K). Magistrates are not allowed to decide that victim impact statements are inadmissible just because the statements contain subjective or emotional material.
The victim impact statement will usually be made by the victim, or by another person if the victim is under 18 or incapable of making the statement. The statement will be provided to the court and to the defendant some time before the court case. The defendant, or their lawyer, may cross-examine the victim in court about the contents of their statement (s 8O). Victim impact statements must, at the request of the victim, be read aloud during the sentencing hearing (ss 8Q, 8R).
The Sentencing Act provides for victim impact statements to have a medical report attached to them (which may include reports from psychiatrists, doctors, psychologists or dentists) (s 8M).
Magistrates can, in addition to imposing penalties against a defendant, consider the victim impact statement and any attached reports and award compensation to the victim for pain and suffering, particularly in sexual assault cases (see ‘Compensation orders’ above and Chapter 10.6: Assistance for victims of crime).
For further information on victim impact statements arising from charges of sex offences, see ‘Sentencing’ in Chapter 3.3: Sexual offences.