The Commissioner of Victims’ Rights in NSW made an award to BWL under the Victims’ Rights and Support Act 2013. In her claim for victim support, BWL alleged that her neighbour sexually harassed her and then indecently assaulted her.
After an investigation, an assessor determined that BWL was the victim of an act of violence that did not result in grievous bodily harm. The assessor recommended a recognition payment of $1,500.
BWL wrote to the Commissioner and said she would not accept less than $10,000. She considered the $1,500 offer a “slap in the face” in light of her psychological harm and her history of being victimized. She alleged that she had assaulted on other occasions and that the award she received each time was unjustly low.
BWL also told the Commissioner that she received an AVO against the neighbour, that the neighbor breached the AVO, and that when she complained to the police, she was charged with being a menace. The Commissioner rejected her application for a larger award.
BWL asked for an administrative review of the $1,500 award. The Civil and Administrative Tribunal conducted a hearing. BWL did not appear and did not answer her telephone when the tribunal attempted to contact her. The review was therefore dismissed.
BWL then applied for the dismissal to be set aside, alleging that her telephone did not ring on the day of the review. A hearing was held at which BWL appeared. The tribunal concluded that a “communications mishap” prevented her attendance at the earlier hearing. The tribunal therefore set aside the dismissal.
There was little medical evidence in the record to support BWL’s claim of physical or psychological injury. The tribunal therefore set another hearing date, giving BWL time to gather and submit medical evidence.
The tribunal found that BWL was the primary victim of an indecent assault that constituted an act of violence. After considering reports from BWL’s treating psychiatrist, the tribunal also found that the indecent assault warranted a recognition payment.
While the indecent assault might not have provoked a serious psychological injury in most people, BWL has a history of being victimized. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder that relates to earlier incidents of abuse to which she was subjected. She has also been diagnosed with a bipolar mood disorder and suffers from paranoia.
The tribunal relied on the “eggshell psyche principle” to conclude that BWL suffered from a severe injury. An indecent assault that might not cause severe psychological harm to most people could be very harmful to someone whose history of abuse has left them particularly vulnerable. Finding that to be the case with BWL, the tribunal awarded her $10,000 because her current psychological condition is a direct result of the indecent assault.
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