Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 

Sexual Violence Court reduces lead-up times and trauma

ACTING CHIEF DISTRICT COURT JUDGE FOR NEW ZEALAND
TE KAIWHAKAWĀ MATUA O TE KŌTI-Ā-ROHE
Judge John Walker

EMBARGOED until 9am Wednesday 14 August 2019

Sexual Violence Court Pilot:

Evaluation confirms model reduces trial lead-up times and trauma

An evaluation of New Zealand’s first sexual violence court has confirmed that the approach taken in the judge-led pilot considerably reduces the time that cases take to reach trial.

Pilot cases are proceeding to jury trial about a third faster on average than previously. The evaluation also finds that most complainants feel the pilot’s trials are managed in a way that does not cause them to feel retraumatised by the process.

The Acting Chief District Court Judge, John Walker, says the pre-trial intensive and proactive case management by specially trained jury judges, supported by dedicated case managers, is shown to produce shorter timeframes for those involved in a serious sexual violence trial.

Judge-designed best-practice guidelines for case and trial management, alongside associated measures to ensure a gentler process such as secure waiting areas, are also reducing risk of further trauma.

The pilot has been running in the District Court at Auckland and Whāngārei since December 2016 for all serious (Category 3) sexual violence cases to be heard by a jury. The pilot set out to reduce pre-trial delays and improve the court experience for participants.

The evaluation by Gravitas and the Ministry of Justice released today covers the first two years of the pilot. It includes quantitative analysis of timeframes and qualitative analysis of stakeholder experiences. The latter was gathered through face-to-face interviews and focus groups with a sample of people involved in the pilot, including complainants, defence counsel, prosecutors, court staff, victims’ advisors and judges.

Former Chief District Court Judge, Jan-Marie Doogue, established the pilot with the support of the Ministry of Justice in response to a 2015 Law Commission report which recommended a specialist sexual violence court to improve the way the justice system responds to victims of sexual violence. Until her recent appointment to the High Court, she chaired a governance board of senior judges and Ministry of Justice officials overseeing the pilot.

“We knew from continuous monitoring that the intensive case management by judges, the focused work of designated case managers and the cooperation of defence counsel and prosecutors were having an impact on pre-trial timeframes,” Judge Doogue said before she joined the High Court bench.*

“Cases are allocated firm trial dates much earlier in the process and this has given all parties more certainty. Long wait times to give evidence in sexual violence trials is known to exacerbate what for many is a distressing experience.”

The evaluation shows that overall, the time to reach trial for cases entering the pilot (at the case review stage) has reduced by 30% or 110 days on average in Auckland; and by 39% or 201 days on average in Whāngārei. This means average time to trial from case review is 8 and 10 months in those centres respectively. Prior to the pilot it took an average of 12 months in Auckland and 17 months in Whāngārei.

Judge Doogue stressed that these are average figures and that for most participants the timeframes are even shorter. For example, latest data spanning the entire length of the pilot till 23 July 2019 shows that more than half of all cases filed are completed within nine months.

Key evaluation findings include that:

• Pilot cases progress more efficiently, faster and with fewer delays overall;
• Stakeholders perceive that trial quality has improved, with fewer adjournments and better quality evidence;
• Complainants are generally better prepared for attending trial, reducing anxiety;
• Judges are more alert to unacceptable questioning and intervene more frequently;
• Judges are more actively involved with cases from an earlier stage, and case review hearings are considerably more thorough and comprehensive;
• Giving defendants firm trial dates earlier is resulting in more and earlier guilty pleas;
• Dedicated case managers are critical to success; and
• There is unanimous support among stakeholders to roll the pilot model out nationally.

Judge Doogue said the governance board would be making recommendations to government on the pilot’s future but any further rollout was dependent on extra resources, which were beyond judicial control.

However, given the pilot’s clear success, Judge Doogue while still Chief Judge determined that the pilot would become a permanent feature in Auckland and Whāngārei at least. All District Court jury judges now receive the enhanced training designed for the pilot, and both she and Judge Walker expected all jury trial judges to adopt the pilot’s guidelines. They also consider it desirable that lawyers avail themselves of education and training in this area, noting that the Solicitor-General has developed new guidelines for prosecutors in respect of prosecuting sexual violence cases and the Undersecretary for Justice has recently outlined plans to fund specialist training for defence counsel on best practice in sexual violence trials.

In time they hoped that in centres with enough judicial and case manager resource, and courtroom and counsel availability, the pilot’s practice of setting firm dates in dedicated courts would become business as usual, and sexual violence trials would not be scheduled as stand-by or back-up cases when another matter did not proceed.

Judge Walker has noted the fears expressed by some defence counsel in the evaluation about insufficient case-preparation time for their clients under the pilot’s tighter timeframes.

“Observing Bill of Rights fair trial rights was a paramount consideration both when designing and during the pilot, and the guidelines that judges have worked to were based on extracting best practice from within existing law,” Judge Walker stressed.

Both Judge Doogue and Judge Walker thanked all those who took part in the pilot and the spirit of goodwill and cooperation toward improving the District Court’s response to sexual violence proceedings.

________________________________________

The full report is available on the District Court website http://www.districtcourts.govt.nz/

For more information about the pilot, see the attached fact sheet.
[Scoop copies of documents:
FACT_SHEET.pdf
Sexual_Violence_Court_Pilot_Evaluation_Report_14.8.19.pdf]

*Judge Doogue will be formally sworn in as Justice of the High Court on 19 August

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

New Reports: Flood Risk From Rain And Sea Under Climate Change

One report looks at what would happen when rivers are flooded by heavy rain and storms, while the other examines flooding exposure in coastal and harbour areas and how that might change with sea-level rise.

Their findings show that across the country almost 700,000 people and 411,516 buildings worth $135 billion are presently exposed to river flooding in the event of extreme weather events...

There is near certainty that the sea will rise 20-30 cm by 2040. By the end of the century, depending on whether global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, it could rise by between 0.5 to 1.1 m, which could add an additional 116,000 people exposed to extreme coastal storm flooding. More>>

ALSO:

 
 

Gordon Campbell: On The Commerce Commission Fuel Report

The interim Commerce Commission report on the fuel industry will do nothing to endear the major oil companies to the New Zealand public... More>>

ALSO:

Emergency Govt Bill: Overriding Local Licensing For The Rugby

“It’s pretty clear some clubs are having difficulty persuading their district licensing committees to grant a special licence to extend their hours for this obviously special event, and so it makes sense for Parliament to allow clubs to meet a community desire." More>>

ALSO:

Leaving Contract Early: KiwiBuild Programme Losing Another Top Boss

Ms O'Sullivan began a six-month contract as head of KiwiBuild Commercial in February, but the Housing Ministry has confirmed she has resigned and will depart a month early to take up a new job. More>>

ALSO:

Proposed National Policy Statement: Helping Our Cities Grow Up And Out

“We need a new approach to planning that allows our cities to grow up, especially in city centres and around transport connections. We also have to allow cities to expand in a way that protects our special heritage areas, the natural environment and highly productive land." More>>

ALSO:

Ombudsman's Report: Ngāpuhi Elder 'Shocked' By Conditions At Ngawha Prison

A prominent Ngāpuhi elder is shocked to find inmates at Ngawha Prison are denied water and forced to relieve themselves in the exercise yard... Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has released a report highly critical of conditions at the Northland prison. More>>

ALSO:

Promises: Independent Election Policy Costing Unit A Step Closer

The creation of an entity to provide political parties with independent and non-partisan policy costings is a step closer today, according to Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Associate Finance Minister James Shaw. More>>

ALSO:

School's In: Primary And Intermediate Principals Accept New Offer

Primary and intermediate school principals have voted to accept a new settlement from the Ministry of Education, which includes entrenched pay parity with secondary principals. More>>

ALSO:

IPCA On 'Rawshark' Investigation: Multiple Police Failings In Hager Searches Confirmed

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that the Police's unlawful search of Nicky Hager's property in October 2014 resulted from an unwitting neglect of duty and did not amount to misconduct by any individual officer... More>>

ALSO:

Broadcasting Standards: Decisions On Coverage Of Mosque Attacks

The Authority upheld one of these complaints, finding that the use of extensive excerpts from the alleged attacker’s livestream video on Sky News New Zealand had the potential to cause significant distress to audiences in New Zealand, and particularly to the family and friends of victims, and the wider Muslim community. More>>

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

InfoPages News Channels