Thursday 5 July 2007 - Part 1 - Pages 1 - 30



[11.04 a.m.]
Mr FINCH (Statement) - Mr President, changes to Tasmania's victims of crime compensation scheme which were foreshadowed in the Budget have aroused great concern in our community. The changes will mean that part of the $5.5 million now spent on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme will go to a number of Justice areas. I do not want to get involved in those proposed changes at this stage because we will scrutinise them when the bill comes before us.

However, Mr President, I do want to highlight some of the appalling tragedies that occur in our community as a result of violent crime. Our community has long recognised that victims of crime deserve recognition and financial compensation for the effects of crime upon them; injury, disability, pain and suffering and mental trauma.

Tasmania's Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, which is less generous than those of most other States, uses money collected from offenders as victims of crime levies and funds from consolidated revenue. The scheme presently provides up to
$30,000 compensation for pain and suffering. It takes little imagination, Mr President, to visualise the effects of violent assault.

I want to tell a personal story involving a family friend, one of many such cases. In July last year the 26-year-old son of one of my constituents, Shirley Blackman, was the victim of an unprovoked assault as he was walking home in the early hours of a Sunday morning in North Hobart. I quote Mrs Blackman:

'My son, Chris, is not a violent person and spoke up by saying to a group of thugs wanting to tangle with them as they passed on the footpath that he and his friends were not interested in fighting. Out of the darkness one of the group then head-butted, punched him in the face and knocked him to the ground. These blows to his head left him with massive facial injuries, a crushed right cheek and eye socket, a buckled and broken left cheekbone and a complete upper jaw fracture and loosened teeth. He had no bite because his top and bottom jaws were totally out of alignment. Consequently he had to undergo surgery by plastic and orthodontic surgeons, a facial reconstruction that required five titanium plates and 25 screws to hold the broken bones together and braces and rubber bands on his gums to brace the teeth and to realign the jaws. I took leave from my own work to care for him and we have paid for all of his expenses incurred because of this very serious, violent attack. Believe me, we have all endured pain and suffering as a result of that serious offence for which nobody has been charged or convicted.'

Those are the words of Shirley Blackman, Mr President, and they are likely to receive absolutely nothing. Chris travelled through South America for over a year, alone, with no issues.

Of course, police and prison officers and some others are more exposed to potential criminal injury and trauma than the general public. The recent case of police sergeant Leslie Cooper springs to mind. He is the victim of workers compensation laws as well as a horrific shooting. In the trial of the man who shot him three times, the court heard that the trauma of the shooting would remain with him for every moment of every day. Sergeant Cooper described his life as one of chronic pain, nightmares and anxiety. The shooting also had a traumatic impact on the man who confronted the gunman to try to stop him from shooting Sergeant Cooper. Charles Joseph Zerafa suffered nightmares and visions about the incident.

Then, Mr President, there is the case of one of my constituents who suffered injuries and trauma when he was set upon by three inmates in one of our institutions. He was bashed with a large block phone and suffered an assault on his neck with a blade. He said he could never go back to work there and probably will not work again. He is receiving workers compensation but nothing for the stress and mental trauma of that attack.

Mr President, those three cases that I have cited are all worthy of community support and government financial compensation. I think that this is, again, a case of our Tasmanian community wellbeing being weakened because it does not help victims adequately in their time of most need.