Criminal justice system failing victims, majority feel unsafe - Chief Victims Advisor

A new survey has found the criminal justice system is failing victims, with the majority feeling unsafe and unsupported, according to the Government's Chief Victims Advisor.

In August last year, on the back of a criminal justice summit held in Wellington, Justice Minister Andrew Little asked Dr Kim McGregor, the Chief Victims Advisor to the Government to develop a "victim-focused workshop" - which was held in March.

To inform the workshop as well as a wider reform programme, an online survey was carried out by 620 respondents to examine victims' experiences in the criminal justice system.

The final results of the survey have now been released, with Dr McGregor saying respondents reported largely negative experiences.

"A majority of respondents told us that their experience of the criminal justice system was either poor or very poor and this is backed up by the stories people shared," Dr McGregor said.

"Through the survey, a majority of victims also told us that the criminal justice system doesn't keep them safe, doesn't provide them with enough support or information, and does not listen to their views, concerns or needs."

The survey was conducted between February and March and found 63 percent of respondents reported their overall experience of the system was poor or very poor.

Eighty-three percent disagreed or strongly disagreed that the system is safe for victims, while 77 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed that victims' views, concerns and needs are listened to during the justice process.

Finally, 79 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed that victims have enough information and support - excluding family and friends - during the process.

"It's clear that we need to do better for victims. Victims' needs, which are diverse and often complex, must be at the heart of any criminal justice reform," Dr McGregor said.

She said while the results "are really concerning", they would inform her recommendations to the Government on how to improve the system for victims.

Victims' advocate Ruth Money said the results weren't surprising.

"We have been saying this for years, but I guess this is our chance. It is actually in one document now, so don't throw it away and act with urgency," she told The AM Show on Wednesday.

"People are listening so we need to strike while it's hot. But it is going to take significant investment and we have got to stop tinkering around the edges."

Money said the system is too focussed on the offender and the Crown, and the victim is often left on the side. She wants victims to become a real party to the process.

"The victim needs to be a party. They need to be named on the documents so they are afforded the respect that every other party to that proceeding are."

She also calls for more funding for victim support and for the financial assistance ACC provides. 

"We need navigators, we need trained people who are there for you, almost like a paralegal."

The survey came under the Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata, Safe and Effective Justice programme. The programme was developed to help "create a better criminal justice system" and deliver on "the Government's objectives to improve public safety, better support victims of crime, meet our obligations to Maori, and build confidence in the criminal justice system".


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