Proposed law changes to benefit sexual violence victims in court

Proposed law changes would benefit sexual violence victims in court by allowing them alternative ways of giving evidence, among other suggestions. 

Green MP Jan Logie, Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice, announced on Tuesday the Government would introduce the new legislation later this year. 

It comes after new family violence laws came into effect on Monday, the details which can be read here. The Government announced a $320 million package in May aimed at reducing family and sexual violence. 

The latest proposed changes will include tighter rules around evidence about a complainant's sexual history, to protect them from unnecessary questioning. 

Sexual violence victims would also be given the right to choose how they give evidence, with the option of audio visual link or pre-recorded video, to avoid seeing their attacker. 

The legislation would also include recording evidence given at trial so it can be replayed at retrial instead of having to be given again, with overall increased protections for victims giving their impact statements. 

In addition, more certainty would be given to judges to intervene in unfair or inappropriate questing in court, and to "address common myths and misconceptions about sexual violence". 

Green MP Jan Logie, Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice.
Green MP Jan Logie, Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice. Photo credit: Getty

Logie said the proposed reforms are a response to recommendations by the Law Commission. She said they "reflect the calls for change that have been coming from the sector for over a decade".  

The commission made the recommendations in 2015, and similar recommendations for family violence cases were published in March in the commission's final review of the Evidence Act 2006. 

The Law Commission is required to review the Evidence Act every five years, and for the second part of the review, it was asked to look specifically at rules of evidence related to sexual and family violence. 

Its first report in 1999 led to the creation of the Act, and its 2013 report on its review of the Act led to the Evidence Amendment Act 2016, overseen by former Justice Minister Amy Adams (details can be read here)

The new reforms will be introduced to Parliament by the end of the year, according to a document shared by Logie's office. The more recent recommendations from the Law Commission are still under consideration.

"Everyone who has been harmed by sexual violence deserves to have justice delivered without going through more, avoidable, trauma," Logie said in Auckland. 

"Research consistently shows that giving evidence is the hardest part of the justice process for sexual violence victims."

Budget 2019 will provide $32.8 million in funding, plus $5 million in capital, to support the implementation of the reforms. 

"Most of the funding will ensure pre-recorded cross-examination is available consistently across the country and wherever it is appropriate." 

Where to find help and support:

  • Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
  • Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)