Victims 'not feeling properly supported' through court system, Chief Victims Advisor says

Final results of a survey on how crime victims view the criminal justice system clearly show how survivors are being failed badly.

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Dr Kim McGregor discussed recommended changes to New Zealand’s criminal justice system. Source: Breakfast

The insights gleaned from the findings, released today, are expected to be used to create a fairer system.

Government Chief Victims Adviser Dr Kim McGregor said the survey was "conducted to help advise the Minister of Justice and his reform programme, Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata, [the] Safe and Effective Justice reform programme."

Of the 620 people who took the online survey, 63 per cent of respondents reported that their overall experience was poor or very poor.

"Seventy to 80 per cent of victims felt that the system did not make them safer, did not give them enough support or information as they went through the system," Dr McGregor told TVNZ1's Breakfast.

For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

She said victims, or witnesses, are not being recognised as being "the party to the crime", but a "witness to the Crown’s case".

"They're treated just as a witness, so they don't have their own lawyer, in effect, so they have no one to prepare them, to debrief them, to advise them, and so they're not feeling properly supported.

"Victims are asking for their own lawyer - they're asking for an advocate to advise them, to debrief them, to guide them."

Dr McGregor said she only expected around 100 responses to the online survey, consisting of 10 questions, and made available for four weeks. Of the 620 respondents, 90 per cent were victims.

"They're saying that they want much more support, and many people who are experiencing interpersonal crime, are wanting a different process, because they want people who are harming them, who are often their loved ones – people in their families or the community – they want them to get treatment."

Dr McGregor said one woman she spoke to, who had been assaulted by her ex-husband with a weapon, had wanted him to receive treatment for his depression rather than being sent to prison. However, the only way she was able to get him to receive treatment was by reporting him to the police.

"When he went through the criminal process, he was jailed for two years. He didn't get to the treatment he needed, he came out more angry, and he started hunting her down because she had reported him to the police and ended up in jail.

"She said in the short term, she was made more safe. In the longer term, she wasn't."

Ms McGregor said the system "really does stop people coming forward", citing the New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey. The survey sampled around 8000 people, and found that "less than a quarter of people who experience crime are reporting to the police." For cases involving interpersonal crimes, the figure drops down to seven per cent, she said.

"I'm concerned that we may have a crisis of confidence from victims in our criminal justice system."

She has made a number of recommendations to Justice Minister Andrew Little, including "better entrances to the courts."

It comes after she invited over 150 victims, victim advocates and people in the justice system to attend a workshop, held on March 4 and 5 this year, to examine "all of the difficulties in the system."

"Some of their recommendations included having an advocate for the system to go through the system, [and] having better entrances to the courts because they feel intimidated when they get there.

"There are a number of recommendations, and I'm putting these forward to the [Justice] Minister later this year."