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Ensuring fairness and safety for victims of sexual violence in the justice system

The Government will introduce law changes later this year to ensure that the justice system, in prosecuting sexual violence cases, does no more harm to victims and survivors.

“Everyone who has been harmed by sexual violence deserves to have justice delivered without going through more, avoidable, trauma,” says Jan Logie, Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice, at HELP Auckland today.

“Research consistently shows that giving evidence is the hardest part of the justice process for sexual violence victims. We know fear and anxiety about appearing in court and going through cross-examination prevents many people from reporting what has happened to them.”

The proposed law changes include: 

tightening the rules around evidence about a complainant’s sexual history, to better protect against unnecessary and distressing questioning
ensuring specialist assistance is available for witnesses who need it to understand and answer questions
giving sexual violence victims the right to choose how they give their evidence and undertake cross-examination – for example by audio-visual link or pre-recorded video
recording evidence given at trial so it can be replayed at re-trial instead of having to be given again
more protections for sexual violence victims giving their victim impact statements in court, and
certainty for judges to intervene in unfair or inappropriate questioning, and to address common myths and misconceptions about sexual violence.

“These reforms are focused on that process and respond to Law Commission recommendations and reflect the calls for change that have been coming from the sector for over a decade,” said Jan Logie.

“They will make a significant difference for victims and survivors of sexual violence while ensuring trials are a fair and robust process.”

The announcement builds on the Government’s record investment in addressing family and sexual violence in the Wellbeing Budget, which includes funding to implement these legislative changes, as well as providing best practice training and education for lawyers and judges involved in sexual violence cases.

The Cabinet paper outlining these proposed law changes is available here.