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Road victims’ families to benefit from Offender Levy

Hon Simon Power
Minister of Justice


6 May 2011 Media Statement

Road victims’ families to benefit from Offender Levy

Families of victims killed as a result of a criminal act, such as dangerous driving causing death or careless use of a firearm causing death, will soon have access to more Government-funded support, Justice Minister Simon Power announced today.

“Currently there is a lack of support available to the approximately 100 families of victims killed each year as a result of a criminal act, where homicide charges are not laid,” Mr Power said.

"Families of people who die as a result of a homicide receive a range of Justice-funded support, but there are no specific entitlements for families of people who die as a result of other criminal acts where there may be insufficient evidence to lay homicide charges. We need to rectify that."

Mr Power said that from 1 July such families will have access to:

• Up to 30 trauma counselling sessions. The sessions are funded by the Government and administered by Victim Support. Sessions are provided through an approved counsellor and necessary travel costs are also met.
• A $3,000 discretionary grant to help lessen the financial impact of their family member’s death. The grant can be used to cover loss of income and other general costs.

These are in addition to other support that may be available for families of victims killed as a result of a criminal act, such as ACC or reparation.

“We are able to fund these additional services because the Offender Levy is being collected more quickly than anticipated.

“In fact, we met our first-year collection target of $2 million some five months ahead of schedule. This has allowed us to dedicate an additional $946,000 a year to expand services to cover more victims of crime.”

“Today’s announcement brings the total number of victim services funded by the Offender Levy to 13.”

“Overall, the uptake for the eight original entitlements and services for victims of serious crime has been positive and feedback indicates they are making a real difference to the lives of victims.

“I hope the new initiatives announced today will have a similar effect.”

The full range of services funded by the Offender Levy is available here.


Questions and Answers

What are the new initiatives for victims of serious crime?

• Trauma counselling for families of victims killed as a result of a criminal act which is not homicide.
• A discretionary grant for families of victims killed as a result of a criminal act which is not homicide.
• A court attendance grant for victims of sexual violence and their unpaid support person.
• A means-tested emergency grant for economically disadvantaged victims of serious crime.
• An expanded travel assistance scheme for victims of serious crime and their unpaid support person for Justice sector-related travel not already covered by the scheme.

Why did the Government choose to fund these particular initiatives?

These initiatives were chosen because they:

Represent some of the largest service gaps for victims of serious crime.
Will have a positive impact on victims and their families.
Are cost-effective and simple to administer.
Can be sustainably funded.

How will the new entitlements and services for victims of serious crime make a difference?

Victims of crime, and in particular victims of serious crime, face significant financial and emotional costs as a result of the crimes committed against them.

The additional financial assistance will help to reduce the costs (for example, lost income due to time off work, travel to court etc) that victims of serious crime and their families face, especially for families of victims killed as a result of a criminal act.

How much will the initiatives cost?

These initiatives will cost about $946 thousand a year. They will be paid for by the $50 Offender Levy which is being collected more quickly than anticipated, creating extra funding for new entitlements.

When do the initiatives begin and how do victims apply for them?

The initiatives begin on 1 July and will be administered by Victim Support. All enquiries about them, including how to apply, can be directed to Victim Support on 0800 VICTIM (0800 842 846).

Why are families of victims killed by a criminal act not eligible for the same support as families of homicide victims?

Homicide is defined as murder or manslaughter. Therefore, if homicide charges are not laid, the victim’s family cannot claim the support available to families of homicide victims.

Approximately 100 people are killed each year as a result of a criminal act which is not homicide.

These new initiatives are a significant step forward in the amount of Justice-funded support available for families of victims killed as a result of a criminal act. The initiatives will help families alleviate some of the emotional and financial stress they face following the criminal death of a family member.

What other services and entitlements does the Offender Levy provide?

Between November 2009 to July 2010, eight new initiatives were rolled out which provide additional support to victims of serious crime.

They were:

• An enhanced homicide support service which provides four paid homicide support co-ordinators to work with Victim Support's volunteer network.
• An increase in the discretionary grant for families of homicide victims which are suffering financial difficulties, from $1,500 to $5,000.
• A court service for victims of sexual violence which give them access to a trained adviser who understands the dynamics of sexual violence cases and victims' needs.
• A grant of $500 towards the expenses incurred as a result of sexual violence, such as replacing items of clothing collected for forensic evidence.
• Increases in travel, accommodation and childcare assistance for victims attending court proceedings, from $1,000 to $3,000, and Parole Board hearings, from $500 to $1,500.
• A High Court attendance grant of $124 per person per day for up to five adult members of a homicide victim's family.
• A funeral grant of up to $4,500 to families of homicide victims, on top of the $5,500 available through ACC.
• New information resources, including a DVD, pamphlets and a redesigned victims' website www.victimsinfo.govt.nz, which will give victims of crime access to simple and accurate information about the criminal justice system, including an outline of the court process and support services available.

What else is the Government doing for victims of crime?

A number of initiatives are under way which will improve the focus and responsiveness of the justice sector toward victims of crime.

The Government recently announced a package of reforms that will help victims in a number of ways. The most significant of them are:

• Improving the Victim Notification System so victims can receive a wider range of notifications.
• The development of a Victims Code to improve the responsiveness and accountability of justice sector agencies to victims.
• Establishing a Victims Centre within the Ministry of Justice which will oversee the coordination of state-funded services and information available to victims of crime.
• Improving victim-prosecutor communications.
• Giving victims of serious crime, or someone nominated by them, the right to read out their victim impact statement at sentencing and to have more scope to express their feelings in their own words.

The Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill includes a range of reforms to speed up and simply the delivery of justice. The proposed changes are expected to result in less delay, fewer adjournments, shorter trials, a more satisfactory process for victims and witnesses, and increased efficiencies within the system.

Other projects that will improve victims’ experiences of the Justice system include:

• Identifying reform options for alternative pre-trial and trial processes for child witnesses.
• Developing national best-practice guidelines for the treatment of child witnesses.
• Progressing the Child and Family Protection Bill which primarily amends the Domestic Violence Act 1995 and the Care of Children Act 2004 to improve the responsiveness of the courts to victims of domestic violence, and enhance the protection of children and families.
• Reforming the collections operating model with new enforcement powers which will better hold offenders to account and mean that more reparation for victims should be collected.


ENDS

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