Improving the justice response to victims of sexual violence

Jan Logie, Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence), has announced a package of changes to improve the justice response to victims of sexual violence.

“Everyone who has been harmed by sexual violence deserves to have justice delivered without going through more, avoidable, trauma,” said Under-Secretary Logie when speaking to media and stakeholders in Auckland.

The improvements respond to recommendations from the Law Commission, victims and other experts who have highlighted the need to reduce the trauma of court processes for people affected by sexual violence.

Proposed law changes to be introduced to Parliament later this year will:

  • enable sexual violence complainants to give evidence and be cross-examined in alternative ways – for example, by audio-visual link or pre-recorded video
  • ensure specialist assistance is available for witnesses who need help to understand and answer questions
  • tighten the rules governing disclosure about a complainant’s sexual history to better protect against unnecessary and distressing questioning
  • require trial evidence to be recorded to prevent complainants having to repeat their evidence at future retrials
  • better support and protect sexual violence victims giving their victim impact statements in court
  • give judges certainty to enable them to intervene in unfair or inappropriate questioning, and to address common myths and misconceptions about sexual violence.

A full Select Committee process will enable public submissions on the Bill. The Government hopes to pass the legislation in this term of Parliament, with adequate lead-in time before implementation so everyone can be well-prepared.

The package of legislative changes sits alongside specialist, best practice education and training for lawyers and judges, and existing operational improvements in courts. Through improved facilities, better information for victims and training for frontline staff, the Ministry of Justice will deliver safe and appropriate services for court users.  

Under-Secretary Logie says the work will ensure that the justice system, in prosecuting sexual violence cases, does no more harm to victims and survivors, while ensuring trials are a fair and robust process.

The Government’s Budget 2019 provides funding to implement these changes, including significant investment in technology and service design to ensure our courts are equipped for the new processes.

Improvements to the justice response form part of the whole-of-government work programme to deliver a more effective system response to family violence and sexual violence. That wider work is led by the Joint Venture of ten chief executives on the Social Wellbeing Board. 

Cabinet paper: Improving the justice response to victims of sexual violence [PDF, 7.7 MB]

Read the Government’s Budget 2019(external link)

Read more about the Joint Venture

Information for victims of sexual violence(external link)

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