New sexual violence court pilot welcomedJustice
A new pilot that aims to speed up sexual violence court cases should help reduce trauma for victims during the court process, says Justice Minister Amy Adams.
Ms Adams today welcomed the announcement by Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue that two dedicated sexual violence courts will be trialled in Whangarei and Auckland.
The pilot is scheduled to begin on 1 December. The Government’s Justice Sector Fund, which supports the Government’s priorities of reducing crime and reoffending, provided $130,000 over two years to support the implementation and evaluation of the pilot.
“Sexual offences victims have been through a harrowing ordeal. We need victims to have confidence in the justice system. If we can resolve their cases more quickly, they can move on with their recovery sooner,” says Ms Adams.
“I applaud the judiciary’s efforts to improve how the courts respond to sexual violence cases. Simple, practical steps like these can make a real difference. Judges will be able to use all the tools available to them to make the court experience easier for victims and their families.
“This commitment by the judiciary to improving the way the courts respond to sexual violence cases aligns with this Government’s resolve to tackle this horrific form of abuse. Victims deserve fair treatment and perpetrators must be held to account.”
The initiative will see the two District Courts and their satellite courts deal with sexual violence cases at a regular time and place, instead of within the daily mix of other kinds of cases. It also aims to enhance pre-trial case management and judicial education about best-practice.
The changes will improve how judges, courts staff, lawyers and others involved work together. The pilot is expected to reduce delays, help ensure sexual violence cases are dealt with effectively and consistently, and improve the court experience for victims and others.
“It’s estimated that the vast majority of sexual violence offences go unreported. The reasons are complex, but it’s clear that some victims see the formal criminal justice system as traumatic and unresponsive to their concerns,” says Ms Adams.
“We are carrying out detailed work looking at the recommendations in the Law Commission’s 2015 report on how the justice system responds to victims of sexual violence. The Law Commission made 82 recommendations including specialised court processes and procedures for sexual violence cases; establishing an alternative process for resolving cases where victims don’t want to go through the court process; and improving support for sexual violence victims so that they are better equipped for engaging with the justice system.
“More broadly, we are implementing a wide range of justice and social sector initiatives, as part of the cross-government family violence and sexual violence ministerial work programme, overseen by myself and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley.”
The work programme aims to prevent family violence and sexual violence, reduce the harm they cause, and break the cycle of re-victimisation and re-offending.
“This includes the investment of $46 million in Budget 2016 to develop services to better support sexual violence victims and prevent this horrific form of abuse,” says Ms Adams.