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Legal System Must Support Child Victims

31 MARCH 2008

Jigsaw Says The Legal System Must Support Child Victims

Tau Huirama, Jigsaw CEO Strategic Relationships, says it is important the right environment is created to support children to speak out about child abuse and sexual abuse they have experienced.

Conviction rates remain low with only 6% of all cases reported to Police resulting in a conviction.

“It takes a lot of bravery for a child to speak up and tell their story of how they have been sexually abused. It is a very traumatic time for them when they relive the painful memories of the abusive situation they were in.”

Mr Huirama thinks that lawyers need to remember that cases involving sexually abused children are not a game and that there must be systems in place to nurture and protect child witnesses.

“Ms Blackwell’s study talks about the range of games defence lawyers play to help get their clients off the charges they face. These games have a significant impact on the children that testify. This will put children off speaking out about sexual abuse as well as causing a lot of stress to the child when they are on the witness stand. We need to protect the child and make the whole experience a safer one for the children involved. As the study says, at the moment it appears that we have a fair process for the accused but not for the victim.”

Mr Huirama supports Ms Blackwell comments that sexual offences are different to other crimes and it is a complex issue, however it should not restrict us from advocating for a more inquisitorial approach.

“I agree that it is very important that judges inquire about the facts to seek the truth rather than lawyers for both sides fighting to win.”


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