TODAY |

'This is the last straw' - Victims of offenders deemed insane call for law change

Warning: This report and the video above contain distressing content and images.

Victims of crimes by people found to be insane say they're being treated as second class citizens.

They're calling for a law change, with a petition launched in Nelson today, seeking the same rights as other victims of violence.

“Victims of people who are excused of a crime by reason of insanity have far less rights than other victims of crime,” explains petitioner Wendy Hamer.

The former mental health worker was brutally attacked by a patient nearly 10 years ago.

He wasn't convicted of a crime because he was deemed insane by the courts and instead was placed under the care of the health system as a special patient.

Then last month, Mrs Hamer discovered the man who tried to kill her was being moved to her hometown.

The harm after the attack was equal to attack and the worst thing is this keeps happening. - Wendy Hamer

“So for me that was the last straw,” she says.

“We should at least expect no more harm following a brutal attack like I received. But the harm after the attack was equal to attack, and the worst thing is this keeps happening. The attack was just 40 minutes of my life.”

As a registered victim of a "special patient", Mrs Hamer must be given notice of some of his movements.

“I have the right to know his first unescorted leave from hospital. I have the right to know when he's AWOL and the right to know when he has a change in legal status,” she says.

But she has no legal say on his relocation or conditions of a release unless the patient gives consent.

Nelson MP Nick Smith is working with her to change that.

“What we are seeking to do through Wendy's Petition is get the law rebalanced so that there is a constant focus on the fact that there is a victim, and that those victim’s rights and protections need to be taken into account,” he says.

That also includes the right to make a victim impact statement.

One survivor 1 NEWS spoke to, who can't be named for legal reasons, had to get permission from her attacker to read a statement in court.

“That was just atrocious to me,” she says.

She says her offender had the right to her personal health records but she has not been allowed his.

“To be reminded that my consent and my will were irrelevant, that I was powerless and helpless, just days after being raped, served as a traumatic and parallel experience to me,” she says.

In a response from the Ministry of Justice, a spokesperson said victim statements are made to assist a court in sentencing an offender.

“As people found not guilty on the grounds of insanity are not sentenced but may instead be placed in treatment, there is no entitlement for a victim impact statement to be read to the court,” Senior Courts Group Manager Tania Ott said.

“However, this does not prevent judges receiving the statements of victims in their considerations.”

It says a range of services are available to assist all victims through the justice system. And the Ministry of Health says all of its special patients are closely monitored.

Wendy’s Petition” will be presented to Parliament by Dr Smith next March.

A petition has been launched in Nelson seeking the same rights as other victims of violence.