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Photographs, drawings in Victim Impact Statements

Hon Simon Power
Minister of Justice

16 August 2011 Media Statement

Photographs, drawings to be allowed in Victim Impact Statements

Photographs and drawings will be allowed to be submitted in Victim Impact Statements as part of an overhaul of victims rights, Justice Minister Simon Power announced today.

The provision is included in the wide-ranging Victims of Crime Reform Bill which was introduced to Parliament today.

On Victim Impact Statements, the bill:

• Gives victims greater freedom to express their feeling in their own words.
• Gives victims of serious crime get the automatic right to read their statements in court.
• Gives victims of offending by children and young people get the right to attend Youth Court and submit a Victim Impact Statement.
• Allows photographs and drawings to be submitted as part of a Victim Impact Statement.

“A focus of this Government has been to make the justice system more responsive to the needs of victims, in particular children, who are in the system through no fault of their own,” Mr Power said.

“As part of that, we recognise that children may find it easier to draw how the offending has affected them as opposed to writing it down.

"That's why we're proposing to allow drawings to be submitted as part of a child's Victim Impact Statement.

“Also, allowing photographs to be attached to a statement will, in particular, benefit families of murder victims, who will be able to show the court and the offender how they want their loved one to be remembered.”

Mr Power said the Ministry of Justice will develop guidelines for the content and processes of Victim Impact Statements.

“As there are currently no guidelines governing Victim Impact Statements case law has evolved around what cannot be said, including an outline of the offence and opinions or comment on the offender.

“This has lead to the unacceptable situation where a victim is effectively censored so they don’t offend the offender.”

The bill also:

• Improves the Victim Notification System (VNS) by widening the eligibility of victims who can receive notice through the system, increasing the number of victims who receive notice about bailed offenders, and expanding the information victims receive about offenders on short-term sentences and home detention. There will also be a greater emphasis on making victims aware of the VNS and the importance of keeping their details up to date.
• Requires justice sector agencies to have complaints processes and report annually to Parliament with a summary of their services for victims and complaints received.
• Ensures that victims’ rights in the adult criminal jurisdiction are applied in the Youth Court jurisdiction.
• Requires the Ministry of Justice to develop a Victims Code (already under way) to improve the responsiveness and accountability of justice sector agencies to victims.

Mr Power said a significant aim of the Victims Code is to improve victim-prosecutor communications by ensuring prosecutors take reasonable steps to contact all victims of serious crime, meet family members before trial, and ensure victims are informed of changes to charges sooner.

“This bill will ensure victims have a voice in court and that they are not re-brutalised by their participation in the process," Mr Power said.

He intends having the bill sent to a select committee for public submissions before the house rises in October.

The bill is the latest development in the Government's comprehensive work programme to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.

Other achievements in this area include 13 additional services for victims of crime paid for by the $50 Offender Levy, on-the-spot Police Safety Orders, and a Victims Centre within the Ministry of Justice to oversee the coordination of victims’ rights, services, and the duties of agencies.

Previous Government announcements on victims of crime can be found here.

ENDS

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