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Eye On 200 Criminals

ALMOST 200 murderers, rapists and thugs are being monitored in jail by their victims or victims' families.
The Herald Sun has learned that two years after the Victims' Register was set up by the Bracks Government, the families of 63 murder and manslaughter victims are tracking their loved ones' killers behind bars.
Also keeping tabs on their attackers are 52 victims of sex attacks, including 13 rapes, 19 incest attacks, eight cases of sex with a minor and 12 sexual assaults.
The register covers murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, assault, aggravated burglary, stalking, abduction and kidnap.
A range of other offences, including serious road offences, will soon be added.
While the register has proved worthwhile with victims of sex attacks and murders, or their relatives, the 196 people on the register represent less than 1 per cent of the 40,421 victims of violent crimes in 2005-06.
It's a gap Police Minister Tim Holding hopes to narrow by expanding the register to cover more crimes and by making it easier for victims to join.
"While no one can ever undo the hurt and trauma experienced by victims of crimes, we can at least try to put in place a system that ensures they are treated with respect and dignity," he said.
"Prior to the establishment of the register, victims of crime weren't legally entitled to receive any information on their offenders.
"The system in place now is therefore a vast improvement.
"Nevertheless, we are always looking for ways to improve it and to make it better."
Mr Holding is drawing up legislation to open the register to victims of hit-and-runs and other rogue drivers.
The reforms -- to go to Parliament early next year -- will add failing to stop and render assistance, dangerous driving and culpable driving.
"In the meantime, I will have procedures changed in relation to the register to ensure victims of these offences are notified," Mr Holding said.
Victims who register are told:
A PRISONER'S sentence and earliest possible release date.
WHETHER a prisoner is given home detention or is eligible for release on temporary rehabilitation and transition permits.
WHEN the Adult Parole Board paroles, releases someone on parole or cancels parole.
IF a prisoner escapes or is transferred interstate or overseas.
Mr Holding said the parole board now regularly imposed special conditions on parole and home detention orders to protect victims.
"For example, the family of a murder victim requested that an offender released on parole be restricted from entering the municipality where they lived," he said. "This was then included on the parole order."
Victims on the register can oppose an offender's early release at the parole board and tell of any impact of the crimes against them.
Since it was set up, 231 victims, their nominees, next of kin or other family members have used the register.
Crime Victims Support Association president Noel McNamara said the register had positive feedback from victims.
"We've seen no slip-ups yet," he said.
"It was a bit of a minefield for people to get on to at the start . . . but they've made it a bit easier now."
The move to include serious driving offences follows outcry over the early release in June of a hit-and-run driver who killed university student James Donnelly in Canterbury in July 2002.
James' family had no idea Phillip Josefski, 34, had been released from prison into home detention until they saw him at the County Court.
To join the register victims must complete an application form which can be obtained by ringing 1800 819 817 or on the department's website, www.justice.vic.au.

Herald Sun (4-9-2006)
Peter Mickelburough

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