The government is also boosting funding for victim support organisations
Justice Minister Kiri Allan has announced that the government will introduce a bill and new legal measures to help improve the experiences of victims of sexual and severe violence in the justice system.
She revealed that the proposed legislation would introduce legal protections for victims of sexual violence against children, reduce litigation abuse in family-related proceedings and give victims greater control over name suppression decisions.
Allan pointed out that under the current law, sexual assault victims can be questioned as to whether they consented to sexual activity. The justice minister emphasised that this practice is "unacceptable and falls well below societal expectations of who the law should work."
The proposed legislation will grant the courts greater powers to stop litigation abuse, such as by filing excessive or abusive applications in family-related proceedings. The bill will also clarify the process to lift name suppression in the criminal court, giving victims a clear opportunity to ask about having it lifted at the time of trial.
In addition to the bill, the government plans to launch three pilot programmes to help victims navigate the court system, improve safety for victims of serious crime and provide support for child victims of sexual violence. These programmes will be trialled in the courts in Whangārei and Manukau and will be evaluated and adjusted according to feedback from victims and frontline workers.
"As part of our drive to make the justice system fairer for victims, we are changing the law and trialling approaches that will better support children and adult victims in the courts," Allan said.
The government has also pledged to provide additional funding for victim support organisations, including an extra $3m for Victim Support and $2.2m for the Victim's Assistance Scheme. These services are critical in supporting victims at all stages of the criminal justice process and beyond.
"These changes will make an immediate and meaningful difference to the lives of the victims of some of our most serious and violent crimes. Improving the system will help complainants feel more comfortable in court and encourage them to come forward", Allan said.