In October 2017, allegations of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein were reported by over 80 women.  The common thread and amongst the women who made the allegations against Weinstein was that Weinstein was a predatory and opportunistic  abuser of women who relied on his position of power in the movie and entertainment industry to sexually gratify himself.

The collective allegations and common theme started the #me too movement and what has been referred to as the Weinstein effect.

In 2018, Weinstein was arrested and charged in New York with rape and the criminal trial commenced in January 2020.  On 24 February 2020, Weinstein was found guilty of two felony offences.  He is yet to be sentenced.  Weinstein’s lawyers have made public comment that he intends to appeal the verdict.  Weinstein has been separately charged with rape in Los Angeles.  The criminal proceedings in Los Angeles against Weinstein are yet to go to trial.

In Queensland, survivors of the kind and type of abuse that Weinstein has been found guilty of committing have a few different options when it comes to seeking redress or a remedy or compensation for their physical injuries and/or their emotional trauma.

Remedy 1      The Criminal Justice System

The making a complaint to the Queensland Police Service can see the offender charged and convicted of an offence or offences.  While being a participant in the criminal justice system can provide survivors a sense of closure and justice, it can also be a difficult and very stressful experience to give evidence and to be cross-examined after a highly traumatic experience.  For an alleged offender to be found guilty of physical and/or sexual abuse, the relevant standard of proof is beyond reasonable doubt which is a quite demanding level or standard of proof.  Very wealthy individuals like Weinstein are able to afford high quality and expensive lawyers with the defence which can make the experience more traumatic for abuse survivors and particularly if the cross-examination is a long and difficult experience.

Remedy 2      The Civil Proceedings for Compensation

Survivors of physical and/or sexual abuse can also seek a remedy with a civil action.  If the offender is a person of significant means, the effort can be worthwhile in terms of recovering compensation for pain and suffering, out of pocket expenses, recovery of past and future lost earnings or income, recovery of past and future loss of superannuation benefits, past and future care and assistance and future medical treatment.   One of the common difficulties encountered by survivors of physical and/or sexual abuse is that the offender is often a person without significant assets or financial resources or has no assets or financial resources.

While not essential, it can often be helpful to allow the criminal justice system proceed first and if a guilty verdict or plea of guilty is entered, the evidence which is gathered by the police during the criminal investigation and during the criminal proceeding is often very helpful and valuable for the civil case although significant financial resources can be spent by the offender during the criminal proceedings which can reduce the recovery or the prospects of a full recovery of damages in the civil claim.

Remedy 3     Victims of Crime Compensation via Victim Assist

If the offender has no assets or no financial resources or as an alternative to pursuing the civil claim, another remedy which is available is victims of crime compensation through Victim Assist which is an initiative of the Queensland State Government which, according to what has been published by Victim Assist, can provide the following assistance for victims of any violence:-

What financial assistance may be available

Victim Assist provides financial assistance to eligible victims who have been injured by an act of violence in Queensland.

If your application is approved, we can help cover some or all of the costs associated with your recovery. These costs may include:

•  medical and counselling costs
•  travel costs to attend medical and counselling appointments
•  safety and security costs
•  replacement of clothing damaged during the crime
•  crime scene cleaning costs
•  loss of earnings (up to $20,000—special conditions apply)
•  other reasonable expenses to help recover from an injury
•  legal costs incurred in applying for assistance (up to $500—special conditions apply)
•  funeral costs (up to $8,000).

The total amount of assistance granted will vary depending on the victim’s individual circumstances. We follow the instructions set out in the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 2009 and Director General Guidelines when assessing your application.

A primary victim may also be eligible to receive a special assistance payment of up to $10,000.

A related victim may be eligible to receive a distress payment of up to $10,000 as well as a dependency payment.

A primary victim may be granted up to $75,000. Other victims may be granted up to $50,000.

Who can apply

Many people can be impacted by a violent crime.

We offer support to 4 types of victim. Different types of victims can apply for different financial assistance.
•  Primary victim: someone who is directly injured as a result of the act of violence.
•  Witness secondary victim: someone who is injured because they saw or heard the act of violence.
•  Parent secondary victim: the parent or primary carer of a victim (who is under 18) injured as result of becoming aware of the act of violence. This may include the victim’s parents, carers, step-parents, co-parents, foster parents, kinship carer, or any other person responsible for the day-to-day care of the child. However, it does not include a person acting in place of a parent on a temporary or short-term basis.
•  Related victim: close family members and financial dependants of a person who has died as a direct result of the act of violence. This may include the person’s partner/spouse, child, brother/sister, or parent. A person who, under Aboriginal tradition or Torres Strait Island custom, is regarded as a close family member may also be considered.

We also offer funeral assistance to the person responsible for paying for the funeral of someone who died as a direct result of violence.

What crimes are considered

Financial assistance may be granted to a victim of an act of violence.

An act of violence could be:

•  physical assault (e.g. being hit, pushed, punched, restrained or choked)
•  any sexual offence
•  burglary with violence and/or robbery
•  stalking, kidnapping and deprivation of liberty
•  violence involving motor vehicles (e.g. dangerous driving causing death or grievous bodily harm)
•  murder, manslaughter and attempted murder
•  domestic and family violence committed by an intimate partner, family member or informal carer.

What injuries are considered

To be eligible for financial assistance, we require evidence of an injury.

We can consider a broad range of injuries that are a direct result of the crime, which include:

•  physical injuries such as bruises, wounds, muscle damage, bone injuries, damage to teeth, or brain injuries
•  psychological injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders and mood disorders

For victims of sexual offences or domestic and family violence, an injury may include other adverse impacts, such as:

•  a sense of violation or reduced self-worth
•  lost or reduced physical immunity or physical capacity
•  increased fear or feelings of insecurity
•  adverse impact on lawful sexual relations
•  adverse impact on feelings.

The link to the application for financial assistance through Victims Assist can be found here:- https://www.qld.gov.au/law/crime-and-police/victims-and-witnesses-of-crime/financial-assistance/applying-for-financial-assistance

Greg Black Compensation Lawyer BrisbaneThis blog was written by Greg Black, Director

Phone: 3379 2513 or Toll Free 1800 316 716

Email: greg@vbrlaw.com.au