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King astounded by National's plan

King astounded by National's plan to charge all offenders a flat fee at sentencing

Justice Minister Annette King says the National Party's plan to charge all offenders a flat $50 fee at sentencing, whether they had committed multiple murders, serial rape or stolen a bike, is a bizarre piece of gimmickry.

"Such a scheme would raise not much more than $6 million a year, but it would surely cost almost that much to service the scheme and to collect the money.

"This is not a Victim Compensation Scheme. The ACC scheme in New Zealand, which spends about $1.4 billion a year on compensation, treatment and rehabilitation, is a proper scheme. This is just a laughable hoax," she said.

"National said last week it wanted to curb bureaucracy, yet this policy would certainly involve a considerable amount of bureaucracy to manage," she said.

Ms King said the Government is committed to strengthening victims' rights and support, and is disappointed that "clearly National has not thought its policies through. This policy looks like it has been written in haste on the back of an envelope."

The Government had taken a considered approach in its response on 17 march to the Report of the Justice and Electoral Committee's Inquiry into Victims' Rights, she said.

"The substantive theme that emerges in the Report is that victims who feel let down by the criminal justice system have often not been provided with adequate information about their role, rights and the services available to them. Addressing the provision of information and services to victims is likely to be the most effective way of improving victim satisfaction with the justice system and ensuring their needs are met.

The 17 March response included a summary of extensive Government initiatives aimed at strengthening victims' rights and increasing the level of support provided to victims. These initiatives include work being undertaken this year to develop a Victims' Charter to build awareness of the standard of service that victims can expect from government agencies; and the establishment of a central contact point for victims, including a national 0800 victim's helpline and website to provide information and to assist victims with advice about support agencies and services.

Ms King said the response also summarised work already underway "that will address many of the issues raised in the Report", including work to establish Victim Advocates in Family Violence Courts and a Review of Services for Victims of Crime being undertaken by the Ministry of Justice.

Three recommendations in the report are identified by the Government as having "significant policy implications". They are: • Developing a State-funded compensation regime for victims • Investigating the benefits of an inquisitorial approach • Developing a coordinating and monitoring (victims') agency

The Government has asked the Law Commission to look at the issue of compensation and state funded reparation, while, in relation to investigating the benefits of an inquisitorial approach or aspects of this approach, the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence will begin work later this year to look at alternative models to the adversarial system in relation to sexual violence cases.

The Government also reaffirmed its commitment to the use of restorative justice and to strengthening and extending restorative justice processes. The Ministry of Justice is considering the use of restorative justice in domestic violence and other sensitive cases, including the need for specific practice standards. Work to strengthen restorative justice processes includes the introduction of quality assurance measures and eventual accreditation of providers.

In relation to establishing a central monitoring and co-ordinating agency, the Government states that the "substantial issue is whether a State run victims' agency would provide a better service to victims than that is currently provided by Victim Support. A critical advantage Victim Support has as a non government organisation is its ability to utilise a substantial number of dedicated volunteers… and tap into network of community organisations."

The response reaffirms the Government's commitment to its partnership with Victim Support and working with other Non Government Organisations to ensure a high standard of service continues to be provided to victims of crime.

"The Government's response is based on a long-term, considered approach. National's approach is to play games with real issues."

ENDS

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