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New policies will further protect victims of crime

New policies will further protect victims of crime

Doubling the penalty for breaching a protection order is among initiatives which will make the justice system even more responsive to the needs of victims, National's Law and Order Spokeswoman Judith Collins says.

National today announced the first part of its law and order policy, which focuses on continuing to reform the justice system so it better serves and protects the victims of crime.

"Victims of crime are dragged into the criminal justice system through no fault of their own. Our policy will ensure victims are heard, that they get the support they need and are not brutalised again when defendants are tried," Ms Collins says.

National will increase penalties for breaches of protection orders to better help victims of family violence. Last year 976 people were convicted of breaching a protection order and 185 received a prison sentence.

"While good progress has been made, family violence continues to be a serious problem in New Zealand. Victims are often the most vulnerable members of our society, and they deserve all the protection we can give them," Ms Collins says.

"National will double the maximum penalty for a single breach of a protection order to two years in prison or a fine of $10,000."

Any further breaches will be punishable by up to three years' imprisonment, regardless of the period in which they occur, rather than the current maximum of two years in prison for two breaches in the space of three years.

"This policy will send a clear message that breaches of protection orders will be dealt with very firmly under the law," Ms Collins says.

To help protect families in serious danger of family violence, National will also fund the successful safe@home programme with $500,000 a year from the Offender Levy.

Safe@home is run by Safer Homes In New Zealand Every Day (SHINE), which provides security improvements for the homes of family violence victims at risk of serious harm or death.

"This is a great initiative that significantly reduces the fear and anxiety experienced by victims of family violence. The funding will enable the programme to expand the number of people it can help," Ms Collins says.

National's policy will also change the way evidence is heard in court to better protect vulnerable participants, especially children.

"About 750 children give evidence in court each year. We must ensure they are not re-victimised by the process," Ms Collins says.

"We will change the law so children under the age of 12 give their entire evidence in one go by video or CCTV. This will reduce the stress and potential waiting time for children giving evidence."

National will use funds collected from the $50 Offender Levy to introduce specialist intermediaries trained in the cognitive development and language of children.

National will also:

* Pass the Victims of Crime Reform Bill which gives victims more say over what goes in their Victim Impact Statement, and introduces a Victims' Code to improve how government agencies interact with victims.

* Pass legislation to ensure any compensation awarded to a prisoner is paid to their victims or the Victims' Services Fund.

* Speed up the courts process to reduce delays for victims and witnesses. Changes in the recently passed Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill will shave 6-9 weeks off the time it takes for a court case to be completed.

* Continue to get legal aid spending under control after eligibility and provider fees were expanded under Labour. National will also continue to improve the quality of legal representation, as identified in Dame Margaret Bazley's review of legal aid.

* Take further steps to modernise and streamline the justice system for the benefit of those who use it and rely on it. This includes reviewing the Family Court to re-examine the role of the State in refereeing family disputes, and reviewing State prosecution services to ensure they are efficient and effective.

* Pass legislation to protect jurors' details from falling into the wrong hands.

* Improve access to justice by reviewing the civil justice system.

View National's law and order policy for victims at: http://www.national.org.nz/files/2011/Victims_policy.pdf

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