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Victims Of Insane Offenders Better Supported By Alternative Measures

The New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa appeared before the Justice select committee yesterday on a member’s bill which aims to provide victims of legally insane offenders with the same rights as other victims of crime.

The Law Society supports measures that aim to ensure victims of crime are treated equally and have appropriate access to information and support.

The Rights for Victims of Insane Offenders Bill proposes changes to the formal finding of the court "to provide victims with the acknowledgment that the offender was proven to have acted grievously, even if they lacked the intent to be guilty of the action".

"The intent of the Bill is to place all victims on the same footing, regardless of whether or not an offender is determined to be legally insane. However, the Law Society considers the Bill would not achieve this", said Law Society spokesperson Professor Jeremy Finn.

"The Law Society is concerned the proposed changes would in fact create inconsistencies in the way different categories of victims are treated, by potentially providing victims of legally insane offenders with more information and ongoing input than other victims of crime".

"Modelling the proposed changes on provisions of the Parole Act is logically unsound as the position of offenders appearing before the Parole Board is markedly different from offenders who are released from treatment following a clinical decision. More concerning were aspects of the Bill which unreasonably and unnecessarily limited an offender’s right to privacy, and the scheme of the Bill is at odds with some core principles of criminal justice", said Professor Finn.

The Law Society advised the select committee that changes to existing definitions in the Victims’ Rights Act 2002 would better protect the rights of victims of legally insane offenders and has therefore recommended that the Bill should not proceed. The Law Society said that if the Bill does proceed, significant changes to the Bill will be needed.

Law Society’s submission on the Bill is available here

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