Helping victims rebuild their lives

  • Judith Collins

Kia ora.

I am honoured to be here with you today as we launch new initiatives that provide greater support for victims of crime and protection for victims of domestic violence.

I would like to acknowledge my colleague Justice Minister Simon Power, Police commissioner Howard Broad, members of the judiciary, Tony Paine from Victim Support, Ministry chief executives, and the NGOs who work with victims of crime for being here today .

I think you can all be very proud of the work you and the organisations you represent have done.

In my view, there are few issues confronting law enforcement agencies today that are more critical than how we serve victims.

Twenty years ago victims were viewed primarily as witnesses whose testimony could help prove a case.

The experience of the justice system was impersonal and brutal. Victims often compared it to being victimised all over again.

We have come a long way.

Today's launch highlights the remarkable body of policies, statutes, criminal justice and social service systems that we have in place to help victims find redress and closure so they can get on with the task of rebuilding their lives.

As my colleague Hon Simon Power has mentioned, there is little any government or any organisation can do to take away the trauma, the fear and the pain of crime.

Repairing the harm of crime is complicated, and every justice system has its limitations.

But there are things we can and should do.

We can make sure victims have access to good information, understand how the system works and understand their rights.

I'm sure the pamphlets and DVD launched today will help victims make those important first steps and help them connect with services, both within the justice system and in the community.

We can make sure victims participate in the justice process and are kept well informed about what is happening and what to expect.

We can send a very strong signal that there is no excuse for crime, and that it will not be tolerated in our communities.

One thing I do not understand is how you can tell someone whose life has been torn apart by crime that it is acceptable.

We can make sure our agencies act quickly, sensitively and do everything they can to help victims regain their confidence and sense of safety in the community.

A lot of work is being done in this area.

Victim Support is currently working with Police to create a new National Contact Service to be based at Police National Headquarters in Wellington.

The service - which will go live at noon on Thursday - will handle all incoming phone requests from Police for Victim Support help.

It'll be a single point of contact, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Its goal will be to get the right help to victims, and get it to them faster.

Police have also appointed a dedicated National Victim Service Manager, Wendy Robilliard, who I am delighted is with us today.

Her role will be to reinforce the Police's focus on victims and to oversee initiatives within Police aimed at better meeting the needs of victims.

But perhaps the most important thing we can do is to make a serious commitment to dismantling the production line of criminals.

No New Zealander should ever be afraid to walk down their street.

No New Zealander should ever be threatened or violated in their home.

No innocent bystander should ever be hurt during a criminal confrontation.

No New Zealander should ever fall victim to a repeat drink driver.

Fewer criminals mean fewer victims. An opportunity exists to look very hard at different ways of approaching crime and justice, with an emphasis on preventing crime.

Already we are seeing more blue uniforms on the street, and Police working more closely with communities, to prevent crime at the grassroots.

Tackling the really hard issues takes a strategic and co-ordinated response.

This is the goal of the Police Violence Reduction Unit which sits within the Police National Criminal Intelligence Groups and is made up of three teams: Alcohol, Online Child Exploitation Across New Zealand (OCEANZ) and Family Violence.

Each team develops violence prevention strategies and provides information that is shared internally and across government and Non-Governmental Organisations.

I am just scratching the surface on the amount of work that is being done by some truly inspiring people on behalf of victims.

These initiatives, and those outlined earlier, represent a huge commitment and a fundamental change in focus of our justice system.

I would like to congratulate all agencies and organisations involved. 

I think that what we are celebrating here today is a reflection of this country's collective conscience and a tangible expression of the value we place in each other.

This Government's vision of justice should be larger than securing prosecutions and ensuring criminals repay their debt to society.

It also requires us to provide support to our fellow citizens who have been victims of crime and violence, to listen to their needs, to empathise, to show respect and do everything we can to help them rebuild their lives.

Thank you.