Rights in criminal proceedings
Section 25 of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (the Charter) protects your rights if you are charged with a criminal offence. You have the right to be presumed innocent until you are proven guilty, law enforcement must inform you of the charges as quickly as possible, and you have the right to have a conviction and sentence reviewed. The Charter applies to public authorities in Victoria, such as state and local government departments and agencies, and people delivering services on behalf of the government.
How does the law protect me?
The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty
Under the Charter, you have the right to be presumed innocent until you are proven guilty according to the law.
Under the Charter, there are certain conditions that public authorities must meet if you are charged with a criminal offence. They must inform you of the charges against you in language you understand. You must be given enough time and a place to prepare your defence against the charges and to talk with your lawyer or another representative.
If you are charged with a criminal offence, the trial must take place as quickly as possible, and you must be given the opportunity to defend yourself or to have a lawyer or representative defend you. Some people may also be eligible for legal aid – you must be told whether
If you do not have a lawyer or representative, you must be informed about whether legal aid is available to you. You can’t be made to testify against yourself or admit guilt for the criminal offence.
In the trial, you have a right to examine any witnesses that speak against you, or you can have your lawyer or representative examine them on your behalf. You have the right to an interpreter or other communication aids if you don’t speak or understand English.
If you are convicted of a criminal offence, you have the right to ask a higher court to review the decision and the sentence.
If a child or young person is charged with a criminal offence, the process should be adjusted to consider their age and emphasise rehabilitation.
Can this right be limited in any way?
In some circumstances, one person’s right may come into conflict with the right of another person or group. In these circumstances, it can be necessary to limit or restrict these rights. Under section 7(2) of the Charter, rights may be limited in certain circumstances, but it must be reasonable, necessary, justified and proportionate.I
n some circumstances, your rights in criminal proceedings may be limited. For example, your right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty might be limited if you are found with drugs in your possession, and you might need to prove to the court that they are not yours. If you provided false information in a grant application, you might have to prove to the court that you did not know the information was false.
How we can help
We can give you information about Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities but we do not handle complaints related to the Charter.
If you would like more information about the Charter and your rights, please contact us.
For information about the legal history of this right, case law or Australia’s human rights framework, you can read more in our Policy and Legal sections of our website.
How to make a human rights complaint
If you think your human rights have been breached, you should contact the Victorian Ombudsman.
If you want to make a complaint about police conduct, contact the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.