Archives for : August 2013

Sexual abuse: Push for change in sex trials By Simon Collins

Raped and abused women should not be ‘revictimised’ by cross-examination in court, Auckland seminar told.

Justice Minister Judith Collins. Photo / NZPA

Justice Minister Judith Collins. Photo / NZPA

Sexual violence survivors are launching a push for alternatives to jury trials in a bid to avoid retraumatising victims.

Speakers at a seminar in Auckland yesterday said fundamental changes were needed so raped and abused women were not “revictimised” by lawyers’ cross-examination of their sexual histories in front of juries, while offenders could stay silent.

Justice Minister Judith Collins has halted work on proposals in a Law Commission issues paper last year to change the adversarial court system to an “inquisitorial” system where a judge controls what evidence is presented and how it is given, questions witnesses before letting lawyers fill in the gaps, and requires defendants to give evidence first.

She said last September that it would not be practical to have an inquisitorial system for sexual offences but not for other cases, because sexual offenders might also face other charges.

But former Law Commission deputy head Dr Warren Young told the seminar the Government might still be open to alternative processes for certain cases, because many victims did not want to go to court.

“The court system does not deal well with most sexual offences, and as a result people who need to be held to account for their behaviour are not held to account,” he said.

“So what we need to think about is an alternative process outside the criminal justice system for those sorts of cases that the court system is ill-suited to deal with – a process that victims will opt into at their choice.

“There will be an assessment by specialist providers about whether it will be workable for them, including safety issues. The process will be tailored to particular cases and will be oriented to trying to achieve a good outcome.

“There will be agreement about when, if the process fails, it is referred back to the criminal justice system, but if the accused participates fully there will be no referral back to the criminal justice system.”

Only about one sexual offence in every 100 leads to a conviction. A survey had found only 7 per cent of sexual offences were reported, and a 2009 government study found only 13 per cent of cases reported to police lead to a conviction.

Police classified 34 per cent of reported cases as “no offence”. Offenders could not be identified in a further 11 per cent of cases, they were identified but not prosecuted in 24 per cent of cases, and were prosecuted but not convicted in the remaining 18 per cent of cases.

This year’s Budget provided an extra $4.4 million over two years to refer an extra 3000 cases a year, including about 50 sexual violence cases, to restorative justice.

Paulette Benton-Greig of Project Restore, a restorative justice provider specialising in sexual abuse cases, said most victims’ overriding concern was to stop a repeat of the offending, rather than to seek punishment.

But Victoria University associate professor Elisabeth McDonald said restorative justice was allowed only after someone had been found guilty, and it needed to be instead of court.

 

Dr Young said the Law Commission consulted former judge and Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright before beginning its inquiry and was struck by her comment: “If I had a daughter who was raped, I would strongly advise her not to go near the criminal justice system.”

PROPOSED new law restricts suspected child abusers

Suspected child abusers could be banned from being around children for up to 10 years without being convicted of a crime under a proposed new law to be announced today.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the restrictions could see up to 80 people a year slapped with orders preventing them from working, living and socialising with children, with penalties imposed on those who break the ban.

If police or Child Youth and Family believe “on the balance of probabilities” someone poses a threat to a child, High Court or District Court judges could impose the 10-year ban, similar to restraining orders in cases of domestic violence.

Bennett expects a battle from human rights and civil liberties groups but believes she has the support of New Zealand for the moves.

The law, which is among a raft of child abuse prevention measures to be unveiled today, would also allow police to tell parents if their partner was the subject of such a restriction.

“The court can consider a pattern of behaviour, so it might be that in some cases police have high intel on an individual and their behaviour has been considerably concerning. They don’t have enough evidence to take them to court but they might ask that the courts put a civil order against them.”

Bennett admits the law will be controversial but says she is putting the welfare of children first. Too many children were dying and on the balance of probabilities, the crime was committed by the “one adult in the room”. But the threshold of proof was too high.

“Far too many of the serious cases of abuse of kids that have been killed, it is often a non-blood relative, so the boyfriend if you like. Sometimes they can be very hard to take to conviction or of course they are alone and the wee child can’t speak up.”

Under the proposal to go out for consultation, qualifying offences could include suspected sexual violation, incest, sexual grooming, indecent assault and murder.

It would restrict where those people could work, live and socialise. “For example, it might be that the person cannot live, work or associate with children, it might be that they can’t hang around parks or pools where children might be.”

The restrictions, and how the threat would be assessed, would be finalised over the next few months but Bennett admitted they could be “very restrictive”. The orders were designed to complement the courts process and provide an extra layer of protection for children.

She said most orders would likely be imposed on those with prior convictions but there would be others who had clean records.

There were measures in place to rehabilitate abusers but children’s safety had to be put first.

The law is expected to hit about 80 people each year but Bennett said there were about 22,000 substantiated cases of abuse and neglect each year.

Privacy & Safety on Facebook – A Guide For Survivors Of Abuse

The American National Network to End Domestic Violence and Facebook have teamed up to offer tips for survivors of abuse, so that you can still use Facebook but maintain safety and control over your information

Click on link below to download or view PDF

 

 

Privacy and safety on facebook