Proposed specialist court for sexual violence cases

  • 15/12/2015
Justice Minister Amy Adams (Simon Wong/3 News)
Justice Minister Amy Adams (Simon Wong/3 News)

By Sarah Robson

Louise Nicholas is backing a proposal to create an "alternative process" - separate to the criminal justice system - to deal with some sexual violence cases.

The proposal comes from the Law Commission's just-released report into how the justice system can do better for victims of sexual violence.

Its president Sir Grant Hammond says a "high percentage" of victims are "opting out" of the very system that is designed to deliver them justice.

"Appropriate justice processes are required for all victims of sexual violence, including those who may not want to go to trial," he said.

The alternative process mooted would only be initiated if the victim wanted to participate and if the case met certain criteria.

The process would be flexible, with its goal for victims to achieve a sense of justice, which could be done any number of ways.

A perpetrator may or may not be involved, but if they were, they would need to acknowledge the incident occurred and take responsibility for their actions.

However, cases that made it through the alternative process would not then be able to be taken to court, even if the offender admitted responsibility.

"Real innovation is required to deal with those cases where, no matter what changes are made to the trial process itself, victims simply do not want to go through it," Sir Grant said.

"To fail to acknowledge this is to fail to address the diverse and distinct needs of victims of sexual violence."

Criminal trials can be a traumatic experience for a victim and Ms Nicholas, an advocate for survivors of sexual violence, says an alternative is needed.

"A lot of the survivors we support, they just want the harm to stop and they just want the person who has harmed them to acknowledge that they had done harm," she told NZ Newswire.

"It's not about locking everybody up, it's actually about what process can we go through to get this family together, to get this whanau together, bring the community together and help to support them."

The Law Commission's report contains 82 recommendations.

Among them is a specialist court to deal with sexual violence cases.

Justice Minister Amy Adams, who asked the commission to re-start its work on alternative trial processes for sexual violence victims, says the Government will give the recommendations careful consideration.

NZN