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Minors Claim Expenses to Assist Recovery from School Riot

HQE v Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (Review and Regulation) [2021] VCAT 722 (5 July 2021)

HQE and KRW, minors, were victims of a riot. They were granted financial assistance by VCAT.  They further claim expenses for security equipment, gym membership and self-defence instruction alleging that they have suffered both physical and psychological harm.

Facts:

On 19 May 2020, HQE and KRW applied to VCAT for a review of VOCAT's decision.  On March 2019, HQE and KRW, then aged 15 years, became victims of violence during an affray or 'near riot.'  During the hearing held by VOCAT on 19 May 2020, the applicants were awarded special financial assistance under section 8A of the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (the VOCA Act) on the basis that they were primary victims; that there were category D acts of violence committed against them; and that they had experienced or suffered a significant adverse effect as a direct result.  An award was also made for past and future counselling expenses.  HQE and KRW each claim an award of amounts for security equipment for his home, a 12-month gym membership, and self-defence instruction as 'adjunctive therapy.'  HQE and KRW and their families believe that the offenders are part of a gang, affecting HQE and KRW’s reaction when they see young persons who share the offenders’ ethnic background.  The applicants' claim their suffering is not limited to physical harm but also psychological harm which includes PTSD with symptoms including hypervigilance, panic attacks and disturbed sleep.

Issues:

I. Whether or not there are exceptional circumstances.

II. Whether the expenses are reasonable likely to be incurred by HQE and KRW to assist their recovery from the acts of violence.

Applicable law:

Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 s 8(3), 54(b)(iii) - gives the decision-maker the discretion in permitting awards for expenses, requires that regard be had to the financial resources (including earning capacity) and the financial needs of the applicant and any other related victim applicants.

QMX v Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal [2018] VCAT 614 - provides that "exceptional" has been defined to mean “unusual, special, out of the ordinary course."

Analysis:

HQE and KRW are minors.  HQE is an apprentice.  KRW is a student.  Their mothers testified that if the award were not made, the families could not meet the expenses.  The psychologist testified that the claimed expenses would generally be good for the applicants because it will boost their spirits, taken together with the evidence given by HQE and KRW and their mothers about the symptoms they still have, the expenses for security equipment would most likely assist HQE and KRW’s recovery from the acts of violence.

As submitted by Mr Slonin, the attack was a ferocious gang attack committed at school, which should have been a safe and secure environment.  Such circumstance qualifies as to what is contemplated as "exceptional."

Conclusion:

The Court granted the awards to be made to the applicants for expenses particularized in their amended statements of claim such as expenses for security equipment, the gym memberships, and the self-defence instruction, to be paid to each of them as soon as practicable on or after their eighteenth birthday.

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