24 Aug 2016

Slow progress on specialist sexual violence court

1:45 pm on 24 August 2016

Moves towards getting a specialist sexual violence court are slow but at least the government hasn't rejected the idea, a victim advocacy group says.

18072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Wellington High Court.

The Law Commission recommended setting up a specialist sexual violence court in a report released in December 2015. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The government is calling for yet more work ahead of any decision on setting up a pilot court, aimed at making the justice system less traumatising so more victims come forward.

An estimated 90 percent of sexual violence victims don't report the crimes against them.

Caucus run 21/07/15

Justice Minister Amy Adams Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Justice Minister Amy Adams relaunched the push to reform the courts following the notorious so-called Roastbusters case in Auckland, and a subsequent report by the Law Commission.

Project Restore, which works with a handful of victims and abusers outside of the courts each year, said it was hopeful the extra work officials were now doing was about how to design such a court, not whether one was needed.

"I think it's helpful that the minister is still considering the Law Commission's proposals - they haven't discarded it completely," the group's spokeswoman, Fiona Landon, said.

"They are slow to respond, but the fact that they are still thinking, considering and reviewing shows some hope."

It was also positive that another of the Law Commission's far-reaching recommendations - to expand out-of-court alternatives for victims, such as those run by her group - was being looked at again, Ms Landon said.

In its response to the Law Commission, the government accepted that "reform would improve the justice response for victims of sexual violence".

Read the government's response (PDF, 221KB)

"Given the complexity of the issues and deeply sensitive nature of this area (particularly for victims for sexual violence), further analysis is needed to establish an achievable and effective programme for change," its response paper said.

Some proponents of reform have previously called for a pilot sexual violence court to be set up as soon as possible.

There are already pilot courts specialising in drug offences and minor crimes committed by people who are homeless.

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