A Focus on victims of crime: A review of victims' rights. Public consultation document.
Apr 26, 2010
From the Consultation document published by the New Zealand Ministry in December 2009:
The purpose of this consultation document is to seek your submission on the Ministry of Justice‟s preliminary proposals (outlined on pages 49-51) that aim to improve government agencies‟ responses to victims of crime and to enhance victims‟ rights and role in criminal justice processes.
To be responsive to the needs of all victims of crime, including Māori, the proposals in this document are consistent with the concept and values embodied in Poutama Manaaki.1 Poutama Manaaki describes a process of making a positive transition from one point to another, and depicts a recovery and regaining strength through understanding and information. Our aim is for all victims of crime to be supported throughout their involvement in the criminal justice process.
The proposals in this consultation document focus on victims‟ involvement in the „criminal justice system‟ from the time a crime occurs until the offender completes his or her sentence. This will include victims‟ involvement with the Police (or other prosecuting authorities), the court processes (including the trial), and the custody and parole of convicted offenders. The benefits of a criminal justice system that is responsive to victims are twofold:
- First, a greater focus on victims will assist in reducing the cost and impact of crime on individuals and on society in general. The more quickly victims recover from their experience of the criminal offending committed against them, the better their outcomes are likely to be.
- Second, improved responsiveness to victims will enhance the effectiveness of, and public confidence in, the criminal justice system. Such confidence is necessary for those victimised by crime and for the whole community. Minimising, or failing to recognise, the harm crime imposes on victims may cause victims to become disillusioned. Disillusionment may result in victims withdrawing their cooperation from the formal justice system. This cooperation is essential to the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, to ensure victims report crimes and also because it is often the victim‟s information which leads to the conviction of the offender.
The Ministry has identified three broad issues facing victims of crime:
- Victims of crime find it frustrating having to deal with multiple government agencies to get information about the criminal justice system, their rights and how to access services.
- There are weak mechanisms to make criminal justice agencies accountable for the services they deliver to victims.
- Many victims find the current criminal justice processes bewildering. Victims often feel they do not have any role in the criminal case involving them and do not know what is happening. Many processes in the criminal justice system need to be more receptive to victims‟ needs.
To address these three issues, this consultation document includes 24 preliminary proposals. In developing these proposals we were mindful of the current criminal justice processes, the principles that are associated with the enforcement of criminal law, the need to be culturally responsive to the needs of Māori victims, and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. An overview of these principles is included in Chapter One.
Chapters Two and Three recommend establishing a new way of delivering further services that will ensure a better focus on victims in the system, and enhance criminal justice agencies‟ accountability to victims. The preliminary proposals would:
- Establish a Victims’ Services Centre as a central coordination and information point for the services available to support victims
- Develop a Code of Practice against which all criminal justice agencies can be made more accountable
- Establish a Victims of Crime Complaints Officer to improve the complaints process and assist in enforcing the Code of Practice
- Require all criminal justice sector agencies to include in their Annual Report to Parliament information about the use of their services by victims and any complaints received from victims.
A further 20 preliminary proposals are discussed in Chapters Four, Five, Six and Seven. Many of these proposals require amending the Victims‟ Rights Act 2002. The proposals would:
- Improve victims’ role within the criminal justice process by providing for more communication between victims and prosecutors to ensure victims have the opportunity to be more involved in the case
- Provide further victim information to the court by giving victims the right to say more in their Victim Impact Statement and to read their statement to the court
- Improve the Victim Notification System for victims of serious offences by tailoring the system so victims can choose the level of notifications they receive and control their level of involvement
- Clarify the rights of victims of child and youth offenders by ensuring the Victims‟ Rights Act 2002 is more explicit as to how it applies to cases in the youth jurisdiction.