New Zealand Law Society - Specialist training for lawyers among support services

Specialist training for lawyers among support services

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A budget package of measures to invest in family and sexual violence support services includes specialist training for lawyers in sexual violence cases and major changes to court processes.

The family and sexual violence package has been announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues), Jan Logie.

With full details to be announced in the Budget on 30 May, the package sits across eight ministerial portfolios and will deliver more support services, major campaigns aimed at stopping violence occurring and major changes to court processes to reduce the trauma victims experience.

Funding and support will be provided for:

  • 1 million New Zealanders covered by Integrated Safety Response sites (Christchurch and Waikato), and 350,000 by the Whāngaia Ngā Pā Harakeke and Whiria Te Muka sites (in Gisborne, Counties Manukau and Kaitaia).
  • 24/7 sexual violence crisis support services for up to 2,800 children and young people every year, and an additional 7,700 adult victims and survivors from 2020/21.
  • Funding for major advertising campaigns and intervention programmes to reduce violence occurring.
  • Using video victim statements to reduce trauma for up to 30,000 victims of family violence every year, and reduce time spent in court.
  • Enabling victims of sexual violence to give evidence in court in alternative ways in order to reduce the risk of experiencing further trauma, and providing specialist training for lawyers in sexual violence cases.
  • Specialist training for lawyers in sexual violence cases.
  • Improving the wellbeing of male victims and survivors of sexual violence through peer support services – up to 1,760 from 2020/21 onwards.
  • Dedicated funding for a kaupapa Māori response to sexual violence.
  • Training for health practitioners in District Health Boards to provide effective screening and referrals for family violence.

Justice system measures

Information released by the Ministry of Justice provides more detail on measures planned for the justice system.

An initiative to provide support for victims/survivors of sexual violence going through the criminal justice system aims to reduce secondary victimisation. Spending of $6.4 million over four years is planned for sexual violence services to support victims/survivors leading up to, during and after the criminal justice system process. This will be done through providing funding for developing specialist services to provide counselling, social work support and support preparing for the criminal justice process. It is planned to support 480 victims/survivors in 2020/21, 960 in 2021/22 and up to 1,440 per year from 2022/23 onwards.

Another set of initiatives will focus on reducing the risk of sexual violence victims experiencing further trauma when participating in the criminal justice process. This will be achieved by enabling complainants to give evidence in alternative ways (including by pre-recorded video), ensuring help is available for complainants and witnesses to understand and respond to questions in court, and providing specialist training to equip lawyers to use best practice in sexual violence cases.