Will I Have to Pay Compensation for a Criminal Offence?

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If you are guilty of a crime, the criminal court can order you to pay for the damage caused eg the cost of any damaged property, medical costs etc.

That sum will normally be payable to the court Registry (office) within 28 days.

The court Registry will then send a cheque to the victim.

If the court does not make such an order, the victim can still take civil proceedings against you for damages eg for medical costs, pain and suffering, inability to work, loss of amenities of life, psychological damage etc.

The circumstances of the ‘crime’ and amount of the alleged damage will determine the court in which the matter is determined eg Local Court, District Court, Supreme Court, Compensation Court.

Alternatively, the Victims Support and Rehabilitation Act 1996 provides for compensation to be paid by the Victims Compensation Tribunal to a person injured by an ‘act of violence’ in NSW.

If such an order is made, the Tribunal can seek to recover costs from you, the defendant.

The Tribunal can do this even if you were dealt with under a ‘section 10 dismissal or conditional release order’; ie without a conviction being recorded against you.

The Tribunal will initially notify you that an award of compensation was made in favour of the victim.

This is called a ‘provisional order’ and can be made within 2 years of the compensation award or date of conviction, whichever is last.

As a compensation award can be made several years after the ‘act of violence’, it can be several years before you receive a provisional order.

If you receive the order, you can:

  • File an objection with the Tribunal and the matter will be listed for hearing, where the amount of compensation payable (if any) will be determined as well as the method of payment (eg monthly instalments). If you are in custody, the hearing will not occur until after your release; or
  • Apply to the Director of Victims services to enter an arrangement to pay a specific sum (eg $2000) in a particular way (eg $100 each month).

If you don’t respond to the provisional order, the Tribunal will order you to pay the full amount immediately.

If the criminal court previously ordered you to pay compensation, that can be taken into account when negotiating the amount of any order but does not prevent the victim or Tribunal from seeking additional compensation.

So, there are 3 main ways you could be ordered to pay compensation for a crime:

1. By order of the criminal court;
2. Through civil proceedings initiated by, or on behalf of, the victim; or
3. As the result of a compensation award by the Victims Compensation Tribunal.

It is always a good idea to request advice about possible compensation implications before you plead ‘guilty’ to any criminal offence.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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