We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to ask for a criminal justice system which is fairer, more effective and less traumatising for survivors of sexual violence. But I’m aware many people who want to submit to the Law Commission on alternative trial processes are finding the submission form difficult to use, so I’ve written some summary points to help. There are also summary guides from Auckland Sexual Abuse Help here and here.
I support all of the Law Commission recommendations for alternative trial processes for sexual offences. In particular I support:
- Establishing Independent Sexual Violence Advisors who can advocate on behalf of victims throughout the police and court processes, including explaining alternatives to the criminal justice system such as restorative justice or kaupapa Maori approaches.
- Sexual violence being treated by the criminal justice system as a specialist area with specialist knowledge, training and guidelines required. Aotearoa New Zealand is not alone in the western world in having a justice system which demonstrably re-traumatises victims. We can lead the world in developing specialist responses and training all court personnel, lawyers, judges and specialist lay jury members in sexual violence.
- Moving away from the current adversarial system which is a competition, and towards a system of inquiry which is led by specialist, trained judges and lay jury members.
- Providing a pathway for people who cause sexual harm who plead guilty to access appropriate treatment through a Specialist Sexual Violence Court system. We should be making it as easy as possible for people to stop offending and develop skills in taking responsibility for sexually harmful behaviour. Our processes at the moment do not facilitate behaviour change for offenders.
- The rights of victims being strengthened at every stage of the court process in line with the Law Commission recommendations. In particular, the extension of risk assessment to children who may have been sexually abused is most welcome.
- Alternatives to the criminal justice sector which place the well-being of the victim at the centre, including specialist restorative justices processes or kaupapa Maori approaches.
We have until Friday 27 April to let the Law Commission know what we need from our justice system for survivors of sexual violence. You can tell them here, or email at email@example.com, or post your submission to:
The Law Commission, ATTN: Alternative Trial Processes Consultation, PO Box 2590, Wellington 6140, New Zealand.
And for the last time, I’ll remind everyone what our national survivor advocate Louise Nicholas has to say: