Victim Impact Statements (VISs)


Downloadable PDF Version –  Victim Impact Statements Fact Sheet (PDF 0.3MB)

What is a Victim Impact Statement (VIS)?
Who can submit a VIS?
Do I have to provide a VIS?
What if the Victim is a Child?
When should I complete a VIS?
How do I prepare a VIS?
What information should I provide in my VIS?
What information should I avoid in my VIS?
Can I comment on sentence?
Who sees my VIS?
How long should my VIS be?
When will the DPP require my VIS?
What if I need assistance?
Can my VIS be opposed or questioned?
How can my VIS be presented to the Court?
Will my VIS have an impact on the Sentence?
What happens to my VIS after it has been presented to the Court?
What if I have other questions?


What is a Victim Impact Statement (VIS)?

A Victim Impact Statement (VIS) is an important document.

It gives you the opportunity to tell the offender and the court how the crime has affected (or is affecting) you.

The Judge or Magistrate can take this information into account when Sentencing the convicted person.

 

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Who can submit a VIS?

If you are a victim of crime you are entitled to make a VIS.

A victim is any person who suffers harm as a result of the offence for which the offender has been convicted.

A victim is entitled to have any injury (physical or mental), loss or damage suffered as a result of the offence considered by the court.

If you are unsure if you are entitled to make a VIS, you can speak with the Investigation Officer, Prosecutor or Witness Assistance Officer (if one has been allocated to you)

 

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Do I have to provide a VIS?

Completing a VIS is voluntary process and it is entirely your choice to complete one or not.

Should you choose to complete a VIS, it is your responsibility to ensure that it is received by the DPP well in advance of the date that it is required.

VIS received by the DPP after the required date may not be accepted by the court.

 

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What if the Victim is a Child?

A child who is a victim of crime is entitled to provide a VIS.

Most children will need some assistance when writing their VIS. This assistance can be provided by a trusted adult who they feel comfortable talking to, a counsellor or a Witness Assistance Officer at the DPP.

If a child chooses to submit a VIS they have the option to write a letter or poem, do a drawing, or express themselves in some other written work.

 

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When should I complete a VIS?

Technically, you do not need to complete a VIS until an offender has either 1) pleaded guilty to some or all of the offences involving you, or 2) been found guilty of some or all of the offences involving you by a Judge or Jury.

However you may be asked to complete a VIS soon after an offence has occurred.

Some people choose not to complete a VIS until they know it is needed and can be used by the court. Where this is the case you should be aware that your VIS may be required quickly and on very short notice.

If a matter takes some time to reach the Sentencing stage you may be asked to update your VIS and provide more recent information about the effects of the crime on you

You should always keep a copy of your VIS for future reference and to assist you should any updates need to be made at a later time.

 

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How do I prepare a VIS?

There are (2) two options for preparing a VIS.

1) You can either fill out the Blue VIS Form commonly provided by SAPOL.

Or

2) You may choose to write or type up your own VIS (refer to the VIS Suggestions Information / Fact Sheet).

Whichever option you choose, your VIS will need to indicate the name of the accused, your name and how you wish to have the VIS presented to the court.

**Please refer to the example on the last page.

 

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What information should I provide in my VIS?

Please refer to the last page for a series of prompting questions to assist you explore the impact of the crime.

Note that these are ideas and suggestions only to get you started.

You do not need to write a response to all the questions listed below and you may want include something that is not listed here.

 

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What information should I avoid in my VIS?

The VIS can only focus on the impact of the charges that the defendant has admitted to, or has been found guilty of.

Therefore it is not appropriate for the VIS to comment on facts or issues that the defendant has not admitted, or has not been found guilty of.

If you are unsure about what you can or cannot refer to in your VIS, we recommend that you speak with the Investigating Officer, Witness Assistance Officer (where one has been allocated to you) or the DPP Prosecutor.

 

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Can I comment on sentence?

The Sentence is ultimately a matter for the Judge to consider.

As a general rule, it is not appropriate for a victim to comment on the type or length of Sentence in a VIS.

However, there are occasions where a victim’s view on a fair and appropriate sentence may be considered by the court.

Before making any comment about the type or length of the Sentence in a VIS, it is best you speak with the Investigating Officer, Witness Assistance Officer (where one has been allocated to you) or the DPP Prosecutor first.

 

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Who sees my VIS?

Your VIS is a submission intended for the Judge to consider in Sentencing.

Once you have written your VIS, the original document needs to be provided to either the Investigating Officer, Witness Assistance Officer (if one has been allocated to you) or the DPP Prosecutor with conduct of the matter.

The defendant’s lawyer must be provided with a copy of your VIS by the DPP Prosecutor.

The defendant also has a legal right to inspect a copy of your VIS, however they will not be given a copy as such.

 

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How long should my VIS be?

There is no prescribed or ideal length for a VIS.

It is recommended that your VIS present a concise overview of the impact of the crime on you. It is not necessary to go into a detailed description of the impact because the courts are familiar with how these offences impact on victims.

However, you may feel that a detailed description of the impact of the crime on you is necessary for the Judge to have an appreciation of the impact on you.

As a general rule, if your VIS is longer than (3) three pages in length it is important to consider whether there is any repetition and how long it will take to have your VIS read aloud in the court.

The DPP Prosecutor may also need to consider how many other VIS’ will be read aloud during the Sentencing Submissions Hearing and how much time has been allocated by the court to this hearing.

 

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When will the DPP require my VIS?

You will be advised of the time frame you have to complete your VIS.

The DPP will require an original (signed and dated) copy of your finalised VIS well in advance of the Sentencing Submissions hearing date.

Whilst the DPP can assist you in drafting the content of your VIS, it is your responsibility to ensure that it is received by the DPP before the date that it is required.

Again, VIS received later than the required date may not be accepted by the Court.

 

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What if I need assistance?

Sometimes victims find it difficult to put into words how the crime has impacted on them.

In circumstances such as this you can seek the assistance of a Counsellor, Victim Support Service Support Officer or your Witness Assistance Officer.

 

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Can my VIS be opposed or questioned?

Yes. The defendant and their legal counsel may object to information in your VIS that they do not consider to be appropriate or relevant to the impact of the crime.

In these circumstance the defendant’s lawyer will inform the DPP Prosecutor of the areas in the VIS that are in dispute.

In circumstances where the DPP Prosecutor agrees that part(s) of the VIS need to be altered, they will consult with you about your willingness to make the alterations.

If you choose not to alter the content of your VIS, the lawyer for the defendant may dispute the VIS at the Sentencing Submissions Hearing; and the Judge will decide on whether parts of the VIS cannot be considered or read aloud in the court.

It is always best that any issues or dispute regarding the content of a VIS is resolved prior to this occurring.

 

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How can my VIS be presented to the Court?

You have four options for presenting your VIS.

  1. Reading your prepared VIS statement aloud.
  2. Having a person nominated by you read your prepared VIS statement aloud
  3. Having the DPP Prosecutor read your prepared VIS statement aloud.
  4. Submitting your VIS to the court without it being read out.

You will need to advise the Investigating Officer, Witness Assistance Officer (where one has been allocated to you) or the DPP Prosecutor of your preference.

 

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Will my VIS have an impact on the Sentence?

Sentencing is a complex process where many factors are taken into consideration.

It is not possible to say how and to what degree your VIS will impact on the final Sentence outcome.

However, your VIS provides the Judge with important information about the impact of the crime that only you can provide.

It is also common for the Judge to refer to the impact of the crime in their Sentencing Remarks.

 

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What happens to my VIS after it has been presented to the Court?

Once presented or submitted to the court, your VIS will remain on the court file.

The DPP will normally keep a copy of your VIS on file should you need to access a copy of this in the future.

 

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What if I have other questions?

If you have any further questions that are not covered in this information fact sheet, please speak with the Investigation Officer, Witness Assistance Officer (where one has been allocated to you, or DPP Prosecutor.

 

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