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Law Commission Report on Compensating Victims of Crime

UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL 2PM - Embargo lifted (Report Tabled)

Law Commission Report on Compensating Victims of Crime

Defendants should be prevented from concealing or disposing of their assets prior to a trial according to a Law Commission report tabled in Parliament today.

The recommendation comes in response to a Government request for the Law Commission to consider whether improvements could be made to existing schemes for compensating victims of crime.

In its report the Commission recommends that the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 be amended so that prosecutors may obtain a restraining order in advance of a trial to ensure assets are not diverted ahead of any court-ordered reparation.

“Restraining orders will be particularly useful in cases of large-scale financial crime, including those involving multiple victims. Apart from some powers in securities laws, there is currently no mechanism to ensure that the assets are preserved until criminal proceedings are complete”, Deputy President Warren Young said today.

As there is little to be gained by restraining property that is of insufficient value both to meet the costs of restraint, and to make a meaningful contribution to the offender’s reparation obligations, the Commission has recommended that restraining orders be available only where the victim has suffered loss or damage of at least $20,000 and the usual costs of restraining property of the type involved are less that the value of the property itself.

“The number of cases that meet these criteria will be small”, said Dr Young. “However, the proposed law will be valuable in some cases to ensure that assets are available to meet the offender’s obligation to make reparation.” The Commission also recommends that related amendments be made to the Victims’ Rights Act 2002, so that victims are kept informed of any applications for restraining orders and related legal proceedings.

The Commission favours the alignment of the regimes for enforcement of reparation orders that exist for District Courts and the High Court, and that are contained in the Summary Proceedings Act 1957 and the Crimes Act 1961 respectively. Presently the High Court has more limited powers than District Courts.

The Commission’s latest report responds to a request by the Government for it to consider whether improvements could be made to existing schemes for compensating victims of crime. The report follows an earlier issues paper canvassing the issues relating to victims’ compensation. The Commission received a number of submissions from victims of crime and groups working with victims. The full report can be found at www.lawcom.govt.nz


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