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Sensible Sentencing Trust
We act for a National Group called the Sensible Sentencing Trust who wish to make a submission and be heared in respect of the Victims Rights Bill.
Our Submission is as follows:
In terms of the Victims Rights Bill we feel that the word "should" must be substituted with the word "Shall" in the body of the entire document.
The early information regarding proceedings should be expressed in mandatory terms.
Early Return Of Victims Evidentiary Property
The Police or prosecuting authority where appropriate should use photographs of victims property for evidential purposes. Consequentially, an amendment to the Evidence Act may also be required.
Victim Impact Statements
(1) The Court may, if it thinks fit to do so, on its own initiative
(1) The Court "Shall", on its own initiative
Consequential changes to other clauses of the Victims Rights Bill may be necessary to incorporate this amendment.
Victim Impact Statements should be confidential to the Judge, Counsel concerned, the Prosecuting Authority, and the Probation Officer.
Must not be available to the offender.
That the victim be entitled to give the report orally or if they wish to appoint a Representative to present this statement. Alternatively the court should provide assistance to enable the victims report to be typed and presented to the Judge and Counsel.
Furthermore it is suggested that a formal Court mechanism be introduced whereby the victims may present their case without the need to rely on the prosecuting authority.
The present Court Victim Support Scheme could be developed and extended to accomodate this important dimension. Funding could be made available from the imposition of fines against the offender.
General Amendment to the above clauses
That it is the appropriate Government departments' responsibility to ensure that victims or their nominated representatives are placed on the correct notification registers.
That it is mandatory that the appropriate Government department notify vicitms or their nominated representatives of any Bail, Release, Escape, Discharge, Parole, Home Detention or condition of final release.
It should not be the Victim's responsibility to request information.
Rights of Victims to be heard at Parole Hearings, Home Detention hearings and hearings to consider final release.
This provision should be extended to bona fide organisations who represent the Rights of Victims, and on the Victims instructions to be heard and make submissions at such hearings.
Parole should not be an automatic right.
In serious cases parole should only be considered on further occasions at intervals of not less than three years. The annual appearance by Victims is very stressful. It should be recognised and remembered that a life sentence means that, and the affording of the opportunity of parole is a privilege.
All relevant clauses should accordingly be consequentially amended.
The Bill should have a provision for recognising and making it clear that despite that the provisions of ACC or other restrictive legislation, that Victims may sue and recover damages from offenders. User friendly mechanisms should be specified. Also such provisions should be extended to enable Victims to recover from offenders any amounts that they receive as profits from their crimes, such as the proceeds, or book royalties. Any such amounts or other windfalls received by the offender including any damages they may receive, such as was recently received for maltreatment in prison should be paid to their Victims.
The Sensible Sentencing Trust, which is a National body, generally supports the Victims Rights Bill, as long as it includes the above amendments.
The fundamental premise of this Bill must be to switch Judicial emphasis from the offender to the victims and their families.
Victims serve a true life sentence.
Sensible Sentencing Trust has the following aims:
1. To protect all New Zealanders from the many repeat violent offenders who are at present paroled as of right and put back amongst the community.
2. To remove the threat these repeat violent offenders pose firstly to their victims and also the wider community. That the public's safety must be the paramount consideration.
The Organisation WISHES TO BE HEARD in respect of these submissions and may be contacted through our offices at the address below or via its National Co-ordinator:
Mr Garth McVicar
Phone (06) 834 9723
Fax   (06) 834 9732
Mobile 025 248 7919
Sensible Sentencing Trust
The following are a pair of Acts the State Government in New South Wales passed in 1996. Goes to show what is possible if the will to construct a victim-centered justice system exists.
The Victims Rights Act 1996 in New South Wales
And the accompanying Victim Support and Rehabilitation Act 1996
i.e. victim compensation as asked for in the Law and Order Referendum. Both pieces of legislation were passed by a sympathetic NSW State Government after extensive lobbying by victim rights groups. Between them they are a fine piece of work.
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