Four recommendations on how the justice system can be improved for victims are included in a report, Te Tangi o te Manawanui, prepared by the Chief Victims Advisor to Government Kim McGregor, and released by the Government.
The four key recommendations are for both immediate and more transformative change:
- Improve procedural justice for victims by upholding victims’ rights, improving access to support and information, and ensuring their safety throughout the system. At a minimum, all government agencies should review their practices.
- Develop an integrated, pro-active and tailored support system focused on restoring victims’ wellbeing.
- Develop a variety of alternative justice processes by partnering with Māori, and restorative and therapeutic justice specialists
- Establish a Te Tiriti-based, independent mechanism to enforce victims’ rights and monitor the criminal justice system from a victim’s perspective.
The report says an independent body should be established that can:
- Urgently focus on improving victim safety.
- Focus on reducing barriers to reporting crime.
- Help to properly implement and enforce the rights of victims and their whānau.
- Enable victims easy access to co-ordinated, tailored and proactive support services whether they have reported to the Police or not.
- Monitor the criminal justice system and develop a continuous system improvement feedback loop to provide impetus for ongoing system improvements.
- Advocate for victims across the system, providing feedback on the system’s performance for victims.
- Empower Māori and Tauiwi victims alike.
- Receive and investigate complaints and resolve issues (including breaches of victims’ rights).
Dr McGregor says the report results from nearly two years' feedback from victims around the country. These include engagements through the Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata, Safe and Effective Justice reform programme, at the Strengthening the Criminal Justice System for Victims Workshop in March 2019, and an online victims’ survey Dr McGregor ran in February this year, which heard from 620 victims of crime.
“Many victims say their overall experiences in the justice system are negative, and some victims are recommending that others who are victimised shouldn’t report the crime because their treatment is so poor,” Dr McGregor says. “I believe this amounts to a growing crisis of confidence in our justice system from a victim’s perspective.
“This should make everyone stand up and take notice. We must listen to victims of crime, especially within the justice reform programme.
“Bringing the focus back to the victim is essential. A criminal justice system focused primarily on the people who offend will inevitably fail to adequately address the needs of those who have been harmed.”
The report also calls for a new independent body or mechanism to be established in partnership with Māori that would be responsible for monitoring and upholding victims’ rights. This body would work to reduce the barriers to reporting crime, advocate for victims through listening to their complaints about system gaps and using victim experiences to create impetus for continuous system improvements.
"Transforming the criminal justice system so that it can genuinely meet victims’ needs in 21st-century Aotearoa New Zealand will be an enormous challenge, and action will be needed at all levels. It will take time, so we need to start now!"