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Debate on Changes to Improve Court Processes for Victims of Sexual Assault

September 15, 2016 at 11:21 AM

Debate on changes to improve court processes for victims of sexual assault

*From the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse*

Parliament recently debated the Evidence Amendment Bill 2015, which proposes reforms to court processes for victims of sexual assault.

The Evidence Amendment Bill 2015 makes a number of small changes to the Evidence Act 2006, which were among those recommended by a Law Commission review in 2013. The Evidence Act defines what evidence is allowed in court, how evidence is given, and provides limits on questioning and guidance regarding evidence.

The debate involved discussion of two Supplementary Order Papers (SOP) proposed by Green Party Member Jan Logie and one SOP proposed by Justice Minister Amy Adams. One of Ms Logie's SOPs would have allowed victims of family and sexual violence to the same rights as child witnesses to use alternative methods of giving evidence, such as video recording, being unable to see the defendant, or from an appropriate place outside the courtroom. Another would have allowed judges to prevent intimidating questions. Neither amendment was agreed to.

The Minister's SOP 188 was agreed to. It extends the required Law Commission periodic review of the Act from one year to two years and allows a previous statement of a witness to be evidence rather than the witness only being able to refer to it to refresh his or her memory.

Labour Party Member Stuart Nash questioned why the Bill once enacted would not come into effect until July 2017, but this question was not answered in the debate.

The bill is now in its third reading.

The urgent need for reforms of the court process for sexual violence was highlighted in 2009 in a report from the former Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence and research from Elisabeth McDonald and Yvette Tinsley.

The Government's Safer Sooner document says the Minister of Justice is considering more ways to improve the criminal court process, including the experience of family violence and sexual violence victims,


Category: Legislation