Legislative Council: Thursday, February 09, 2023


Victims of Crime Fund

The Hon. F. PANGALLO (14:43): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Attorney-General about victims of crime.

Leave granted.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I've been contacted by the family of Deon Hewitt, a beloved 74-year-old grandfather, father and husband, who was bashed to death in his own home with a hammer by a drug-using psychopath, Steven Patrick Berg, in May 2018.

Berg was found not guilty of murder by reason of mental incompetence and sentenced to a period in care at James Nash House. He has been allowed three hours of freedom once a week, supervised by two mental health workers, but his lawyers are now arguing in the Supreme Court that Berg should be allowed to have up to 10 hours' freedom to wander and shop, spread over two days and supervised by just one mental health worker instead of the two initially sought.

Could he even be trusted with three? They claim the current arrangement is not a lot of time for Berg's activities—not that the victim, Deon Hewitt, nor his family now have any time at all for activities with him.

The still grieving family is upset by the move, which still allows the madman killer to travel through the community where he committed the horrific crime. Berg's court hearing was adjourned until 3 March to allow Mr Hewitt's family to participate in the matter and be heard, yet to add insult to egregious injury, the family has now been informed by the Commissioner for Victims' Rights that she will not release modest funding for a lawyer to represent them. This comes at a time when there is an obscene amount of money—nearly $200 million—sitting in its coffers specifically for victims of crime like Mr Hewitt's family.

My question to the Attorney is: will you instruct the commissioner to ensure that the Hewitt family gets the financial support it requires to engage a lawyer to represent them in court and, with such a vast amount of money piling up in the Victims of Crime Fund, do you think it's fair to deny modest funding for victims of crime wanting a legal voice in court?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:45): I thank the honourable member for his question. Much of that I will have to take on notice. I don't recall being briefed on the details of the matter the honourable member refers to, but I'm happy to check some details and maybe bring back, even before tabling if I can, in the coming days some further information for the honourable member.

Certainly, there are funds that are available for victims of crime to make applications as victims of crime for compensation under the Victims of Crime Fund, but I gather the honourable member was talking about further legal representation for other matters beyond the application for a payment from the Victims of Crime Fund. I'm happy to take that part on notice and see if I can find an answer for the honourable member.