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Huge gaps in Victims' Rights Bill

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Huge gaps in the Victims' Rights Bill debated in Parliament today leave victims with second-class protection, said Labour Justice spokesperson, Phil Goff.

"The Victims of Offences Act 1987 which the Bill replaces was a revolutionary piece of legislation when it was passed by a Labour Government 12 years ago.

"But the Bill, like the Act it replaces, doesn't create statutory rights for victims which can be enforced. It simply sets out a list of principles, which statutory agencies have the discretion to enforce.

"It's time to move on from this concept. The words 'should' and 'may' in relation to victims' rights need to be replaced by the word 'must'. That leaves no doubt as to the status of victims' rights and their enforceability.

"No-one will disagree with the additional provisions in the Bill giving victims the right to be heard in Court and before a Parole Board, and the need to protect victim impact statements.

"These have been called for for years and I am pleased that the impending election has encouraged the Government finally to act. Again, however, the Bill does not go far enough.

"Labour will amend the Bill to give victims the right to be consulted by judges about final name suppression.

"Labour will toughen requirements for reparation to be paid to victims and to ensure that reparation orders are carried out.

"Labour will extend the current provisions for victim security at court and victims court services which remain strictly limited. These do not exist in the vast majority of Courts.

"Labour will also move to restore victims' rights to financial compensation removed by National Government changes to ACC.

"The Bail Bill, stalled in Parliament, will be toughened to prevent so many people becoming victims of hard core recidivist offenders.

"Mr Ryall's Bill is a classic case of too little and too late. It falls well short of what Victims' Support have long been urging. It short-changes victims and leaves the on-going impression that the criminal justice system focuses more on the rights of offenders than on those of victims," Mr Goff said.

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