Practical changes give victims more rights and support in justice system

  • Giving sexual assault victims more control in court processes around their name suppression
  • Greater legal protections for victims of sexual and serious violence
  • Aligning the penalty for sexual connection with a child to a maximum sentence of 20 years’ in prison 
  • Three new pilots to improve victims’ safety, ensure they’re heard in bail decisions and strengthened support for child victims of sexual violence
  • Additional funding for victims’ support organisations

The Government is delivering on its promise to improve victims’ experiences in the courts and wider justice system, Justice Minister Kiri Allan announced today.

“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,” Kiri Allan said.

“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.

“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 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,” Allan said.

The Government will also launch three pilot programmes in mid-2023 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.

“These services play a critical role in providing frontline support to victims at all stages of the criminal justice process and beyond and builds on the significant investment the Government has made since coming into office, including tripling the funding for the Victims Assistance Scheme,” Kiri Allan said.

Since 2017 the Government has made the largest ever investment in victims, including direct support and system changes, with a goal of ensuring the justice system that serves all New Zealanders. 

Notes for editors:

  • 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.
  • Today’s 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.