People who put themselves at risk to cooperate with police and support the justice system will receive greater protection under new laws passed by the Victorian Parliament today.
The Witness Protection Amendment Bill 2016 strengthens the external oversight of Victoria’s witness protection 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 witness protection arrangements 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.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Police Lisa Neville
“These new laws deliver a stronger, more accountable witness protection system, while also cracking down on those who intimidate witnesses.”
“The Andrews Labor Government has delivered on all of the review’s recommendations to provide the best support and protection available to people who cooperate with police.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020