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Government strengthens victims' rights

Government strengthens victims' rights

EMBARGO: 3pm, Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The Government will strengthen victims' rights through a range of initiatives, including developing a Victims' Charter and funding a national 0800 victim helpline and a website for victims, Justice Minister Annette King said today.

Ms King said the initiatives are among the first in a series of Government responses this year aimed at increasing the level of support provided to victims. "I am determined that 2008 will be the year in which victims' rights are properly addressed."

In other initiatives announced today, Ms King said the Labour-led Government will also provide additional funding to the New Zealand Council of Victim Support Groups to build the capability of frontline service co-ordinators.

Ms King says other issues will be addressed in the Government Response to the Report of the Victims Rights Inquiry, released in December. "The Committee's Report also raised the issue of compensation for victims and the Government has asked the Law Commission to undertake a review of this issue."

Ms King says a Victims' Charter will be developed to build awareness of the standard of service that victims can expect from government agencies. "The Charter will be a significant step in ensuring that victims of crime are aware of their rights under the Victims Rights Act and the information and services they should receive.

"There will be more information available to victims by improving the coordination and integration of information across government agencies and non-government organisations," she said.

Ms King said the Labour-led Government would provide $1.7 million in 2008/09 establishing a central contact point for victims to provide information and to assist victims with advice about support agencies and services. "This will include a national 0800 victim helpline and website for victims, and some of the funding will also be used to boost funding for Victim Support to help them attract suitably skilled and experienced staff to meet the needs of victims."

In a separate initiative, Ms King said the Government will also provide additional services, totalling $5.8 million in 2008/09 and $6.2 million in subsequent years, through Family Violence Courts.

In the Family Violence Courts, the role of an independent Victim Advocate/Support Person will be introduced to provide support and assistance to victims of domestic violence, she said.

The Government will also fund non-government service providers delivering stopping violence programmes to offenders referred from Family Violence Courts. "These programmes will help break the cycle of violence and re-victimisation."

Ms King said urgent amendments are also being progressed to the Legal Services Act 2000 to ensure victims have full access to legal representation and do not need to repay legal aid grants. "I am absolutely determined victims should not be re-victimised by having to make repayments."

The Minister also announced today that in response to the Ombudsman's report Investigation into the issues involving the administration of criminal justice, a Justice Advisory Board of eminent New Zealanders is being established.

"This is a major initiative. The board will help senior Justice Ministers test ideas, and provide an opportunity for ongoing dialogue about the direction of the broader justice sector as well as specific justice sector issues," she said. "The Advisory Board will have a mandate to engage with the wider public and will provide an independent perspective drawing on broad expertise and experience from across the justice sector."

Ms King said successful precedents for this type of model included the Growth and Innovation Advisory Board and the National Advisory Committee on Health and Disability.

ENDS

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