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Victims of crime legislation comes into effect

January 22, 2015 at 9:35 AM

Article sourced from New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse

 

A number of amendments to existing legislation which aim to better provide for victims of crime came into effect on 6 December 2014.

The Victims of Crime Reform Billpassed its third reading in Parliament on 27 May 2014 and was divided into a four-part bill. The objectives of the Victims of Crime Reform Bill were to strengthen the existing legislation to better provide for victims of crime, widen the rights of victims of serious offences, provide more opportunities for victims to be involved in criminal justice processes and ensure victims are better informed of their rights. The following outlines the bills and their application.

Part One: Victims' Rights Amendment Act 2014. The Victims Rights Act 2002 has been amended to strengthen and extend the application of general rights for victims and increase the rights of victims of serious offences. Specifically the Act:

  • Requires the Ministry of Justice to develop a Victims Code in consultation with core justice and government agencies which provide services to victims. The Code will outline victims' rights and services, complaints processes and duties of agencies.
  • Enhances the accountability and delivery of services to victims of crime, requiring agencies to deal with complaints promptly and fairly and record and report on the services provided.
  • Widens the definition of 'victim' to include victims of domestic violence and children or young people who live with them, allowing access to victim treatment and services.
  • Requires officials to provide victims information about services and treatment. Information to be provided includes case progress, restorative justice processes and resources available (if the victim seeks a meeting with the offender), the possibility of the court making an order, such as prohibiting publication of the particulars of the victim, and the steps the victim may take in relation to that order.
  • Widens the definition of a 'support person' to allow anyone the victim nominates other than the accused or offender. Information may be given to the support person on behalf of the victim, if the victim chooses.
  • Widens the scope of what victims may include in their victim impact statement. Under a new section of the Victims Rights Act 2002 (s.29), victims of serious offences will have the right to read out all or part of their statement.
  • Widens the eligibility for victim notification by explicitly including all victims of sexual offences.
  • Widens the scope of victim notifications to include breaches of conditions.
  • Ensures all victims of serious offences who submit views on bail will be notified of the outcome of the bail hearing and conditions which relate to the victim and immediate family. Responsibility for victim notification and informing victims of their eligibility to ask for notification rests with New Zealand Police and the Ministry of Justice.

Part Two: Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Amendment Act (No 4) 2014. The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 has been amended to ensure victims' rights in the adult criminal jurisdiction also apply in the youth justice jurisdiction. This includes:

  • Allowing a victim's representative attending a family group conference to be accompanied by a reasonable number of support people.
  • Widening the definition of a victim to be consistent with the Victims' Rights Act 2002.
  • Providing the right for a victim or victim's representative to attend Youth Court proceedings.
  • Ascertain a victim's view on the custody of a child or young person pending a hearing, where that victim is a victim of a serious offence and notifying the victim of the court's decision.
  • Including the provisions of victim impact statements and general treatment and rights of victims as under the Victims' Rights Act 2002.

Part 3: Parole Amendment Act 2014. The Parole Act 2002 has been amended to allow a victim to request information on the offender to assist the victim in making a submission to a parole hearing. The victim will automatically receive further information for each subsequent hearing if parole is not granted.

Part 4: Sentencing Amendment Act 2014. The Sentencing Act 2002 is amended to increase victims' access to restorative justice by establishing a formalised process for court-referred restorative justice pre-sentencing. Judges are required to refer eligible cases when informed by the Registrar that an appropriate service is available. The Bill also clarifies court reparation orders can include costs consequential on injury not covered by ACC. 

When the Victims of Crime Reform Bill passed through Parliament, Justice Minister Judith Collins said "The experience of crime and its aftermath can be extremely stressful for victims and their families. The passage of this Bill confirms this Government’s commitment to creating a justice system that treats victims with dignity and respect. We’re ensuring victims’ are supported, their rights are protected and their voices in our criminal justice system remain strong."

Other recent legislation related to increasing victims' rights include the Victims Orders Against Violent Offenders Act 2014, Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Act 2014 and the Domestic Violence Amendment Act 2013.

For more information on the bills, read the Victims of Crime Reform Bill Explanatory Noteor visit the Victims Information website for more information on victims' rights.