Offender debt recovery notices
In Queensland, a victim of a violent crime may receive financial assistance from the government to help them recover from the crime. The state may recover money from the person convicted of the violent offence to pay the victim.
Under the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 2009 (VOCAA), we may seek recovery of:
- payments made in relation to a court order for criminal injury compensation in favour of the victim
- financial assistance payments made to help victims recover from the crime.
The Act allows us to seek retrospective payments—that is, for convictions before 2009.
Recovery is only sought after a conviction in a Queensland court, and not when the matter is referred to the Mental Health Court.
If you have been convicted of a relevant offence, you will receive a recovery notice from the offender debt recovery program.
The notice will detail our intention to recover the money from you and if your debt relates to a criminal injury compensation order or to financial assistance paid to a victim.
You have 28 days to dispute the notice.
If you do not dispute the recovery notice, you will receive a liability notice stating the amount you are required to pay and the date the payment is due. You usually have 28 days from the notice date to make your payment.
If you do not pay the liability notice by the due date, your overdue payment will be transferred to the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER). Once the debt is registered with SPER, you can:
You cannot have your debt converted into unpaid community service or a good behaviour order.
SPER will issue you an enforcement order to recover the debt. If you do not pay it, a number of enforcement actions may be taken against you including:
- suspending your driver licence
- directing your employer or financial institution to deduct funds from your pay or bank account
- registering an interest over your property
- immobilising your vehicle
- seizing and selling your property.
- Do I still have to pay if I only pleaded guilty because my solicitor told me to?
- Why do I have to pay when I have already served my sentence in prison or by community service?
- What if I can’t afford to pay?
- Does a time limit apply to my debt?
- Why has it taken so long to contact me about the debt?
- Do I still have to pay if I was a juvenile when the offence was committed?
- What is the offender levy?
- I was told by the court or my solicitor that I wouldn’t have to pay the debt and that the government would pay. Why do I have to pay now?
- How do you work out how much I pay and how much my co-offender pays?
- Should I have been made aware of the court-ordered amount?
- What if the applicant had an injury before the offence—am I still responsible for the debt?
- Why was I not made aware that an application for financial assistance had been made?
Do I still have to pay if I only pleaded guilty because my solicitor told me to?
Yes. In most circumstances a debt must be paid where there has been a recorded conviction. Avenues to appeal a conviction exist within the criminal justice system and can be followed up by consulting a lawyer or contacting Queensland Courts.
Why do I have to pay when I have already served my sentence in prison or by community service?
The aim of financial assistance is to help victims of crime in their recovery from an act of violence. The decision to grant financial assistance to a victim is made separately to the sentence handed down by the courts as a result of the conviction.
What if I can’t afford to pay?
We can’t waive or reduce the amount that must be paid on the grounds of financial hardship. If you think the amount is too high, you can seek legal advice about appealing the court’s decision.
If you don’t pay the liability notice and your debt is registered with SPER, you may be able to set up an instalment plan.
Does a time limit apply to my debt?
There is no limitation period. We can recover debts many years after a court order for compensation or grant of financial assistance has been made.
Why has it taken so long to contact me about the debt?
In 2009 the Victims of Crime Assistance Act was passed, giving us a process for recovering past debts.
Do I still have to pay if I was a juvenile when the offence was committed?
Yes. The courts can hand down a compensation order even if the person is or was a minor at the time of the offence.
What is the offender levy?
An offender levy is an administrative fee that helps us cover the cost of law enforcement and criminal proceedings.
I was told by the court or my solicitor that I wouldn’t have to pay the debt and that the government would pay. Why do I have to pay now?
Even though you did not have to pay compensation at the time, we can now recover any monies we paid to victims of crime on behalf of convicted offenders.
How do you work out how much I pay and how much my co-offender pays?
For criminal injury compensation, the judge allocates the amount of criminal injury compensation according to each individual’s role in the act of violence.
For financial assistance payments, each convicted offender is responsible for an equal share of the total debt amount.
Should I have been made aware of the court-ordered amount?
After a court decision to grant compensation, the victim must serve the offender with documentation demanding payment. This correspondence is often handled by the victim’s solicitor.
Sometimes attempts to contact the offender are not successful, and the offender may not be aware of a debt until they receive the recovery notice.
What if the applicant had an injury before the offence—am I still responsible for the debt?
For criminal injury compensation, the judge decides the compensation amount based on facts presented in the case. This decision cannot be overruled, and the amount cannot be reduced or waived.
For financial assistance payments, the applicant must provide medical evidence relating to injuries sustained as a result of the act of violence. Financial help is only given for recovery-based expenses for those injuries, and not for previous injuries (unless the act of violence has exacerbated the injury).
Why was I not made aware that an application for financial assistance had been made?
A victim of a personal violent crime may apply for financial assistance under VOCAA. The application process is separate from the courts, with a decision to grant assistance made by a government assessment process. The amount of financial assistance granted is based on the costs incurred by the applicant to help their recovery.
There are no provisions in VOCAA requiring us to notify an offender at the time of the application. We will not contact the offender about the amount we are seeking to recover until the matter is finalised. In some cases, this may be years after the event.