Sexual Justice Now!

 

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 7.07.15 PMJustice for victims of sexual violence 

 

By Jan Logie, MP Kapiti Green MP
 

Recent rallies around New Zealand against sexual violence show that it’s time for the Government to take strong action to create a better future for victims of sexual violence. 

I am working to ensure that our shared outrage at the lack of justice for recent victims of sexual abuse can be harnessed to create real change.

The solutions lie in secure funding for education and support services and in a stronger justice system.

We have had a good win on this first part of the solution.

Our focus on achieving long term, secure funding for support services has succeeded in getting Parliament to hold an inquiry into this issue.

Support services need help

The outcomes of that inquiry will let us give support services the security they need to get on and provide good support to victims of sexual violence instead of worrying about how to keep their services running day to day.

The Government needs to now commit to a significant increase in funding so that the inquiry can focus on the shape of service.

The second part of that solution – a stronger justice system – has not had such success yet. We know that our justice system doesn’t work for victims of sexual violence because so many of them do not come forward to lay a complaint.

I have heard lawyers, and police people saying frequently that even they would not advise their families to try and get justice because the system is so harsh on victims of sexual violence. 

After the Louise Nicholas case shocked New Zealand, the Government established a taskforce for action on sexual violence.

Review of trial processes

Very few of their recommendations have been progressed, but one considerable one was started — a Law Commission review of alternative pre-trial and trial processes to try to improve the conviction rate from its current abysmally low level of 1 conviction for every 100 sexual assaults. 

Over 500 people provided feedback to this review. Many of us felt it was a once in a life time opportunity to help victims of violence get justice.

Yet with no real reason given, the Minister of Justice Judith Collins took this work off the Law Commission’s agenda. I have challenged her on this and her reply is to focus only on one of the many recommendations in that report by saying that the inquisitorial system is not appropriate for New Zealand, ignoring the fact the report considered many other options. 

We know what the effective solutions to a better justice system are, the Law Commission has set them out, and we just need the Government to put them back on the table and consider them.

Collins gave away chances for progress

The Minister has said this issue is important to her but she put a stop to the Law Commission’s report, the most substantive piece of work in this area that we have ever had. She also restricted the review of the Evidence Act, a critical piece of legislation in this area, to a technical review rather than a comprehensive review that would address the real solutions.

So the two chances she had to make a real difference and deliver on decades of work were shut down. This is not serving justice or fairness.

We can have a justice system where victims of sexual violence feel secure about laying a complaint and getting the justice they deserve, we just need action from this Government to get there.