Monday, July 15, 2024

Improved court experience promised for victims of crime

Justice Minister, Kiri Allan says the Government is delivering on its promise to improve victims’ experiences in the courts and wider justice system, announcing the introduction of new legislation and pilot programmes to improve the court system.

“As part of our drive to make the justice system fairer for victims, we are changing the law and trialling approaches that will better support children and adult victims in the courts,” Ms Allan said today.

“We’ve heard from victims and their advocates about where the gaps are in the system. Today we are addressing some of the clearest examples of what needs to change.”

She said the Government will introduce a Bill before the election that will focus on changes in three areas: sexual violence against children, litigation abuse in family proceedings and giving greater choice to victims of sexual violence around name suppression decisions.

“Currently a child sexual assault victim can be questioned as to whether they consented to sexual activity. This is unacceptable and falls well below societal expectations of how the law should work. We’re fixing the law to minimise the risk of this happening,” the Minister said.

“The Bill will also provide the courts with greater powers to stop litigation abuse, for example filing excessive or abusive applications in family-related proceedings; and clarify the process to lift name suppression in the criminal court, giving victims a clear opportunity at the time of trial to ask about having it lifted.

“These changes will make an immediate and meaningful difference to the lives of the victims of some of our most serious and violent crimes.”

Improving the system will help make complainants feel more comfortable in court and encourage them to come forward, Ms Allan said.

The Government will also launch three pilot programmes mid-year to improve safety and help navigate the court system for victims of serious crime; strengthen support for child victims of sexual violence; and ensure victim’s views are provided in bail decisions.

“These will be trialled in the courts in Whangārei and Manukau over the next year, with an aim to test fixes for some of the bigger gaps in the system and provide crucial evidence about what works in order to drive longer-term change.”

“The initiatives will be evaluated, adjusted according to frontline and victims’ feedback and then, if successful, we can look at how the solution could be scaled up.

“The kind of transformation the criminal justice system needs will take time, but we are committed to delivering for victims.The Government is also providing further funding to help Victim Support and the Victims Assistance Scheme,” the Minister said.

Funding for the measures announced today will come from the $45.7 million Victims of Crime – Improving Outcomes initiative funding from Budget 2022 and baseline funding.

The measures form the first tranche of the three-year work programme to develop a Victims Operating Model.

Victim Support will receive an additional $3 million in funding and $2.2 million in additional funding will be provided to the Victim’s Assistance Scheme, the Minister confirmed.

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