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Funding for sexual violence training for judges and legal professionals

September 08, 2017 at 8:39 AM

*From the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse*

Justice and Courts Minister Amy Adams has announced $1.24 million for new training and education programmes for prosecutors, court staff and the judiciary to better understand the impacts of sexual violence on victims.

The purpose is to make victims’ experiences of the justice system less traumatic and more accessible, and help improve victims’ experiences of the court process.

The funding will enable the Institute of Judicial Studies to provide judicial education and will deliver new Solicitor-General’s guidelines for prosecuting sexual violence cases. It will also "develop new online guidance and information with input from specialists so that victims and their supporters can easily access information explaining what help is available, how sexual violence offences are investigated and what to expect in the court process." The funding comes from the Justice Sector Fund.

Ms Adams says "We know that sexual violence has the lowest reporting rate of all offences, caused in part by victims’ concerns about the court process. Victims’ trauma can be made worse if those involved in the court process are unfamiliar with the effects of sexual offending on victims, including anxiety, fear and self-blame."

Ms Adams says the initiatives will build on existing good practice such as the Sexual Violence Court pilot and the Victims Code, as well as the work being done by the Chief Victims’ Advisor and the National Sexual Violence Survivor Advocate.

Information is also available from the Ministry of Justice.

Background information

In 2015, the Law Commission published a report on improving the justice response for victims of sexual violence. It made a total of 82 recommendations.
 
Ms Adams says the Government is continuing to consider other recommendations that require legislative change.

 

Under "Court Specialisation," recommendations relevant to training and education included:

  • Administrative staff in the court should receive training and education on what constitutes good practice when dealing directly with complainants.
  • Every District Court and High Court judge who sits on a sexual violence case should be required to have a designation to do so.
  • The Institute of Judicial Studies should be funded to develop, in consultation with the judiciary and the sexual violence support sector, specialist training courses for judges on sexual violence cases.
  • The Solicitor-General should be resourced to publish specific guidelines for the prosecution of cases involving sexual violence.
  • Every prosecutor who appears in a sexual violence case, whether in the High Court or the District Courts, should be required to be accredited (i.e., to have completed appropriate training and education on the prosecution of sexual violence cases and to know how to deal with complainants in that process).
  • The Legal Services (Quality Assurance) Regulations 2011 should include experience and competence requirements applicable to defence counsel who appear in sexual violence trials on a legal-aid basis. 
As well as improvements to the current trial process, the recommendations included an alternative justice process, and steps to strengthen the support available to victims. These included the establishment of a Sexual Violence Commission to provide ongoing leadership and coordination of New Zealand's response to sexual violence, including research, training/education, and monitoring of the quality of services provided.

For further information see these previous NZFVC news stories:



Category: Policy and Legislation