Victims' rights beefed up

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 09:26 28/05/2014

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A bill to strengthen the rights of victims of crime was passed into law overnight - among the changes; victims of serious crime could now read their impact statements to court.

The law change was part of a wider group of reforms, which were aimed at putting victims at the heart of the justice system.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the bill sought to protect victims who found themselves involved in the justice system "through now fault of their own".

Victims of Crime Reform Bill introduced a number of changes including making agencies more accountable for looking after victims and a requirement for the Ministry of Justice to develop a "Victims Code" to define victims' rights and the service available to them.

It would also widen the eligibility of victims able to register on the Victims Notification System so they can stay informed about the offender.

The scope of the rules surrounding victim impact statements had also been increased, to give victims of serious offences the right to read their statement to the court, as well as include more detail.

Serious offences included sexual violation, offences that resulted in serious injury or death, or an offence that has led to the victim to fear for the safety of themselves or their immediate family.

Victims could now also include details of how the offence may have affected anyone who is in a personal relationship with the victim.

Collins said the laws were driven toward lessening the stress of victims, in the aftermath of crime.

"In the past, victims have felt their say has been limited and impersonal. Our changes help to empower victims by giving them opportunity to voice how the offending has personally impacted them."

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