Published: 16 June 2016
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas
Crime victims $20,000 better off after Court ruling
Case Update: Pham v Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal  VSCA 102
Victims of crime in Victoria who have received compensation for loss of earnings from other sources such as WorkCover will now be up to $20,000 better off because of a judgment from the Court of Appeal.
On 13 May 2016 the Court of Appeal published its judgment in Pham v Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal  VSCA 102.
The case was fought over the amount of assistance available to victims of crime for loss of earnings and, in particular, victims who have received compensation for loss of earnings from other sources such as the TAC or WorkCover.
Ryan Carlisle Thomas represented the successful appellant.
The Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 caps the amount of assistance available to a primary victim of an act of violence at $60,000 (plus any 'Special Financial Assistance'). Within that cap, the Act caps the amount of assistance available for loss of earnings at $20,000. The scheme is designed to be a 'last resort' for victims of crime, which means that applicants are expected to have exhausted their entitlements from other sources (e.g. Medicare, TAC or WorkCover) before seeking assistance from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal. The Act requires the Tribunal to deduct amounts received from other sources before awarding assistance to a victim of crime.
In Pham v Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal  VSCA 102, the appellant had suffered a loss of earnings of about $50,000 and received about $30,000 for loss of earnings from the TAC. After deducting the amount received from the TAC, he claimed the balance of $20,000 from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal. His claim for loss of earnings was refused.
In summary, the Attorney-General (who intervened in the case) argued that the cap applies before any deductions are made for compensation received from other sources. That is, the $30,000 from the TAC should be deducted from the cap amount, which means the appellant would be entitled to no assistance for loss of earnings from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal.
However, the Court of Appeal found in favour of the appellant and awarded him $20,000 for loss of earnings.
This is a significant win for other victims of crime in similar circumstances, and marks the end of over 10 years of confusion and inconsistency on the issue since the decision in Vaughan v Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (General)  VCAT 1758 (the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal took the alternative approach in that case).