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Govt makes victims’ rights mandatory


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice
Media Statement

12 December 2000

Govt makes victims’ rights mandatory


Justice Minister Phil Goff today introduced legislation to make recognition of victims’ rights mandatory.

The supplementary order paper almost completely rewrites the Victims’ Rights Bill, introduced last year, to recast the principles of the legislation as statutory rights.

“The Victims of Offences Act was revolutionary when it was passed by the last Labour Government in 1987. But it is now time to move beyond the expressions of principle contained in that Act and make recognition of victims’ rights mandatory for the agencies that we expect to deliver those rights,” Phil Goff said.

“The changes the Government is introducing today will require agencies to grant victims their rights, where an agency responsible for delivering that right is identifiable.

“It has long been a concern of Victim Support and others working with victims that victims’ rights often fall by the wayside. Complaints procedures have been made explicit in the new legislation, so that victims are able to act when their rights are breached. With a legal obligation to deliver victims rights we can now expect a far better rate of compliance from state agencies.

“Two rights remain as principles rather than being made statutorily enforceable. These are the right to be treated with courtesy and compassion and the right to access assistance that is responsive to a victim’s needs. These rights describe the spirit and way in which agencies will provide services to victims. They have not been made mandatory because their highly subjective nature makes assessment of complaints and enforcement virtually impossible.

“However, I have asked the select committee to further consider whether these rights could be made mandatory in a meaningful way,” Mr Goff said.

In addition to making delivery of rights mandatory, the Government’s changes also introduce a raft of new rights for victims, including:
 Ensuring that a victim’s views are taken into consideration when a judge makes a decision on final name suppression;
 Extending the range of crimes for which victims may join the notification register and be automatically informed about bail, home detention, release, escape and parole hearings involving the offender;
 Extending the range of circumstances in which victims’ concerns must be presented at bail hearings;
 Requiring the Police to inform victims if they are eligible to join the notification register;
 Restricting the circulation of victim impact statements, including not allowing an offender to retain a copy, to prevent misuse of such statements by offenders and others;
 Allow wider use of nominated representatives to advocate and receive information on a victim’s behalf, including allowing a support person to read a victim impact statement to the Court or make a submission to the Parole Board on the victim’s behalf.

“Dealing with the justice system as a victim can be an extremely stressful experience. I believe these new rights will make a real difference to victims,” Mr Goff said.

“In particular, the right to consultation over final name suppression is an important step. In the past it was assumed that victims of sexual offences committed by, for example, a family member, would wish to have details that could identify them by nature of the relationship suppressed. In fact that is not always the case, and the victim may feel that the best punishment an abuser can face is the shame of being identified in their community as a sex offender.

“This is a law change that victims have long called for, and the Government is delivering.

“When the Victims’ Rights Bill was introduced last year I said that it did not go far enough. The law and order referendum result indicated that a vast majority of the public agreed that more needed to be done for victims. The changes we have introduced today mean a better bill, and a better deal for victims of crime,” Phil Goff said.

ENDS

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