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Tackling 'an epidemic of sexual violence' the aim of a proposed new law

The government’s plans to change the way sexual violence trials operate is coming under fire from defence lawyers across the country - but has been defended by Green Party List MP Jan Logie on Q+A this morning.

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The government’s plans to change the way sexual violence trials operate is coming under fire from defence lawyers across NZ. Source: Q+A

By Siobhan Wilson of Q+A

Under legislation currently before Parliament, complaints could pre-record their testimony in advance of the trial.

The defence would also need to get prior approval from the presiding judge if it wants to run evidence or question a complainant about their previous sexual history with a defendant.

Logie, one of the architects of the new bill, says it’s an attempt to address the unnecessary trauma faced by complaints when sexual violence cases make their way to court.

That trauma may be a major part of why researchers have found that, despite 24 per cent of New Zealanders experiencing sexual violence, only six per cent of those people report to the police.

“It's been, I think, the first I'm aware of where the judiciary and players in the justice system have come out and recognised that at the moment we don't really have justice for victims of sexual violence in our court process,” Logie told Q+A’s Jack Tame.

However, the Criminal Bar Association, which includes prosecutors; the New Zealand Bar Association; the Defence Lawyers Association; the Criminal Committee of the Auckland District Law Society have all raised concerns about the proposed changes.

Logie says provisions for pre-recording evidence have worked when implemented overseas

“They've tested that it doesn't have an impact on the right to a fair trial and found it does not. The benefits of it are that it reduces the time that the complainant has to hold the details of those incredibly traumatic events.

“To be honest, in my history in Parliament. I've never seen a piece of legislation with such a strong evidence base.

“Those concerns about the right to a fair trial, the judge holds that role in the court to ensure it, and we have built that in, every part of the legislation, to maintain that job of them in the court. We have not taken it away at all.”