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Real Rights For Victims

Media Statement By
Tony Ryall
Minister of Justice

30 July, 1999

Embargoed Until 2.00PM, Friday, 30 July, 1999

Justice Minister, Tony Ryall, today announced important new initiatives that will, for the first time, give victims the legal right to have their voice heard in the justice system.

The new rights will be officially launched when Mr Ryall speaks at a regional training course for victim support workers in Tauranga on Saturday morning.

"The Government will introduce legislation giving victims new and undeniable rights to have their voice heard by the Courts and the Parole Board", Tony Ryall said.

"The justice system exists for both the victim and the accused. All of those involved must not forget who the rules are for and who they seek to protect.

"It is not a system set up to protect criminals.

"The justice system is the people's system, and the rights of the accused should be balanced by giving more emphasis to the rights of victims.

"Many victims have been telling me that they want the right to express themselves in court and before the Parole Board.

"The Government agrees that victims should have that right in law, and that no-one should be able to deny them.

A Victim's Right To Speak In Court

"At present victims may write a Victim Impact Statement. These statements are tabled in Court. But, only from time to time, and at the judge's discretion, do victims get to speak themselves.

"We will introduce legislation allowing victims to tell the Court in their own words how a crime has affected them. Victims' statements will be made following an offender's conviction and before sentencing.

"Offenders will have to confront what they have done by listening to what their victims have to say.

"Victims tell us they want this right. Victim Support tells us it will make a difference.

A Victim's Right To Speak Before The Parole Board

"Currently victims may appear before the Parole Board and a District Prison Board at the discretion of the Boards. In these cases, victims have to actually go to the prison to have their say!

"These rights will be strengthened so that victims must be heard by the Boards if they wish to make a submission.

"And, victims should not have to go to a prison to be heard. Prisons are for criminals not victims.

"We will be giving the Parole Board the funding to convene at locations other than prisons. This way victims can be heard in surroundings where they do not feel intimidated.

Part Of A Plan

"When I became Justice Minister six months ago I had three key areas I wanted to focus on: saving a generation of young people from a life of crime; home invasion; and, doing more for victims.

"In June this year we introduced legislation strengthening victims' rights by making their safety the primary concern when judges consider bail for cases involving repeat serious violent offending and re-offending while on bail.

"We have also introduced new court security measures to enhance the safety of victims and witnesses appearing in court.

"Now we are introducing further measures giving victims the legal right to have their say.

"I want to acknowledge and thank Victim Support New Zealand for their advice, and for giving all New Zealanders the benefit of their vast experience in supporting victims of crime.

"As from next year Victim Support will be funded from Vote: Justice instead of Vote: Social Services. This is because Victim Support is active across the entire justice sector and the Ministry of Justice is the agency with overall interest in the area.

ENDS

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