New laws for Victoria’s witness protection system

People who put themselves at risk to cooperate with police and support the justice system will receive greater protection under new witness protection laws passed by the Victorian Parliament today.

Witnesses and victims need to feel safe during the court process. If you have any concerns about going to court and giving evidence, you should contact the police informant.
– Office for Public Prosecutions Victoria

The Witness Protection Amendment Bill 2016 strengthens the external oversight of Victoria’s protection for witnesses system and introduces new laws to crack down on those who intimidate witnesses.

It also bolsters governance and strengthens protective measures to a broader range of high risk witnesses.

The legislative reforms:

  • make it an offence to intimidate a witness, with a maximum jail term of up to 10 years
  • clarify the purpose of witness protection and set out principles that must be considered when witness protection decisions are made or actions are taken
  • increase police accountability for delivering protective assistance
  • increase community confidence in the program by strengthening independent oversight and appropriate public reporting

The Chief Commissioner of Police will continue to have ultimate responsibility and discretion around arrangements for protecting witnesses and decision making, and ensure individual circumstances of witnesses and their families are considered.

Victoria’s Public Interest Monitor will now provide independent assurance that these decisions are made in the public interest and in line with newly legislated principles. The Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) will also audit witness protection files to ensure compliance with the Act.

The overhaul follows a comprehensive review of Victoria’s Witness Protection Act by former Supreme Court and Court of Appeal Judge, the Honourable Frank Vincent AO QC, which was released in March.

The legislative reforms deliver on all of Mr Vincent’s recommendations.

For more information on the safety for victims and witnesses, please visit the Office for Public Prosecutions Victoria.

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