Victims’ rights document released

Enhancing victims’ rights
from media release

A consultation document on victims’ rights in the criminal justice system has been released for further input from the public, Justice Minister Simon Power said today.

“The public consultation document “A Focus on Victims of Crime: A Review of Victims’ Rights” forms part of a wide programme of work the Government is undertaking to address the needs of victims of crime,” Mr Power said.

“The proposals aim to enhance victims’ rights and their role in criminal justice processes, and improve how government agencies respond to victims of crime. They follow on from the Government’s recent announcement of eight new entitlements and services for victims of crime funded by the offender levy.”

The proposals focus on victims’ involvement in the criminal justice system, from the time a crime occurs until the offender completes his or her sentence. This includes victims’ involvement with the Police (or other prosecuting authorities), court processes (including trials), and the custody and parole of convicted offenders.

“The proposals aim to begin a discussion about three broad issues the Ministry of Justice identified as facing victims of crime.

“First, victims 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.

“Second, many victims find the current criminal justice processes bewildering.  Victims may feel they do not have any role in the criminal case involving them and often do not know what is happening. The criminal justice system needs to be more receptive to victims’ needs.

“Third, the mechanisms to make criminal justice agencies accountable for the services they deliver to victims can be strengthened,” Mr Power said.

“A greater focus on victims in the criminal justice system will help reduce the cost and impact of crime on individuals and society in general.

“An improved response to victims and their families will also enhance the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system.”

Preliminary proposals contained in the consultation document include:

  • Establishing a Victims’ Services Centre as a central coordination and information point for the services available to support victims.
  • Developing a code of practice that will outline agencies’ obligations to victims and against which all criminal justice agencies can be made more accountable.
  • Establishing a Victims of Crime Complaints Officer to improve the complaints process and assist in enforcing the Code of Practice.
  • Improving victims’ role within the criminal justice system by providing for more communication between victims and prosecutors.
  • Allowing victims the right to say more in their Victim Impact Statement and to read their statement to the court.
  • Improving the Victim Notification System for victims of serious offences by widening the scope of the system and tailoring the system so victims can choose the level of notifications they receive and control their level of involvement.

I encourage all individuals and organisations with an interest in this area to consider the issues discussed in this consultation document, and make a submission so the Government can benefit from widespread input into the development of further effective and timely policies for victims of crime,” Simon Power said.

Submissions close on 31 March 2010. The document is available online at:

http://www.justice.govt.nz/policy-and-consultation/victims

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