• Paul East


Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

I'm very pleased to be here today for the launch of the new leaflet and poster for the Victim Notification Register.

I want to outline for you the recent changes to this scheme which the Government believes will result in a better service to victims. The Coalition Agreement places a heavy emphasis on the rights and needs of victims and these changes are a first step in putting these policies into effect.

The Victim Notification Register has been operating since the Victim of Offences Act was introduced in 1987.

Victims listed on the register are told when their offender is being released from prison or if their offender escapes. To date, more than 11-hundred people have joined the Register.

There have, however, been criticisms from many victims and their families that the scheme doesn't go far enough in meeting their needs. The Department of Corrections was therefore asked to undertake a complete review of the way it administers the victim notification scheme.

This included looking at the information given out about parole and parole hearings. At present, some victims are told when their offender appears before the Parole Board or a District Prisons Board, to apply for parole. But victims whose offenders appear before a parole board only to be granted conditions of release, not a release date, have not been given this information.

The Government has decided that from now on, victims registered on the victim notification scheme will be told about all parole hearings. This means victims will not only have the opportunity to have their say about whether the offender should be granted parole but, in those cases where there is no parole, and the offender serves the required term of the sentence, the victim will now have the chance to make a submission about such things as the conditions of the offender's release and where the offender can live or work.

Many victims may want to put their whole experience behind them and have nothing more to do with the criminal justice system. But for those victims who want to have their say in the parole process, these new procedures will ensure they have the information to do that.

The Government also looked at the advice given to victims about temporary releases. Previously this information was provided at the discretion of the prison manager. It has now been decided that all victims registered on the scheme will be told every time their offender has a temporary release from custody.

These changes are significant steps on the way to giving victims more involvement in the criminal justice sector. The Government intends to amend victims' legislation to reflect these changes and to ensure that the law acknowledges the importance of victims in the criminal justice system.

Another problem the Government became aware of was the fact that some victims did not know they had the right to go on the Victim Notification Register.

As a result, Police and Corrections have signed a memorandum of understanding, which makes it clear that Police will take responsibility for telling all victims of serious crime about the Register and will have supplies of the leaflet to hand out to victims. Corrections will continue to administer the scheme.

This important step, we hope, will ensure, that every victim is given information about the Register and can decide whether he or she wants to go on it.

Since that agreement was reached between Police and Corrections, the two departments have been working on ways to raise awareness of the scheme, both among the general public and among those agencies which have dealings with victims.

A first step was to rewrite the leaflet, which explains the scheme, so that it is more "user-friendly". It has for the first time been produced in Maori and Samoan which should help ensure that as many victims as possible have access to the information.

A poster has been produced to complement the leaflet and supplies of the leaflet and the poster are being distributed around the country to police stations, victim support groups, and other welfare agencies.

Before I leave you today I'd just like to say that I'm very pleased with the co-operation that has taken place between the different agencies working with victims. Police and Corrections have consulted with Victim Support, Courts Advisers to Victims, Citizens Advice Bureaux, Rape Crisis, Women's Refuge, the Maori Women's Welfare League, Families and Friends of Murder Victims, and other agencies.

I am pleased to see representatives of those organisations here today and I know these groups will play their part in raising the profile of the scheme and ensuring the information about the Victim Notification Register is widely available for all victims.