New Zealand Law Society - Report calls for changes to Sexual Violence Pilot Court

Report calls for changes to Sexual Violence Pilot Court

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There has been little overall change in experience of young people and caregivers in their participation in the Sexual Violence Pilot Courts, a Law Foundation-backed report says.

Young Witnesses in New Zealand’s Sexual Violence Pilot Courts is comprised of two studies from the University of Auckland School of Psychology focussing on young witnesses, including;

  • Interviews with young complainants and their caregivers about their experience in court.
  • Analysis of transcripts of trials in the pilot courts and two District Courts with a focus on language used when questioning young complainants.

The pilot courts were set up in December 2016 with the aim to reduce the negative impact of court involvement on complainants and promote best evidence.

However, the report finds the use of complex language, likely to be confusing to witnesses, was common.

“Leading questions, generally regarded as contrary to children’s ability to give best evidence, were common, particularly from defence lawyers,” the Law Foundation says in its statement on the report.

“Provision of breaks and judge intervention in inappropriate questioning were rare.”

The report’s concluding statement commends the Pilot Courts for beginning the steps for change in reducing distress for youth witnesses and calls on the Ministry of justice and Judiciary to enact changes identified by practitioners, researchers and the young people and families.

The report can be found here.