Evaluation of sexual violence pilot court; changes to be permanent in Auckland and Whangārei
Mon 19 Aug 2019
The District Court has released the evaluation report for the sexual violence court pilot in Auckland and Whangārei. The findings from the evaluation ...
The District Court has released the evaluation report for the sexual violence court pilot in Auckland and Whangārei.
The findings from the evaluation confirm a number of successful outcomes, including shorter wait times for cases to go to trial and reduced trauma to complainants (victims/survivors).
Key findings from the evaluation are outlined in a media release by Acting Chief District Court Judge John Walker:
- "Pilot cases progress more efficiently, faster and with fewer delays overall;
- Stakeholders perceive that trial quality has improved, with fewer adjournments and better quality evidence;
- Complainants are generally better prepared for attending trial, reducing anxiety;
- Judges are more alert to unacceptable questioning and intervene more frequently;
- Judges are more actively involved with cases from an earlier stage, and case review hearings are considerably more thorough and comprehensive;
- Giving defendants firm trial dates earlier is resulting in more and earlier guilty pleas;
- Dedicated case managers are critical to success; and
- There is unanimous support among stakeholders to roll the pilot model out nationally."
The full report, Sexual Violence Court Pilot Evaluation Report (2019), explores the impacts of the pilot in several areas, including preparing and starting the pilot, case management, trial management and wider impacts of the pilot.
HELP Auckland provided independent victim advocacy services in half of the pilot cases observed by Sexual Violence Victim Advisors. SVVAs felt that the pilot (and indeed all sexual violence cases) should be sufficiently funded to allow each complainant witness to be assigned both an SVVA and a victim advocate (page 46).
The Chief District Court Judge established the pilot with the support of the Ministry of Justice in December 2016. The evaluation covered the first two years of the pilot.
The report also discusses learnings from the pilot and reflects on rolling out the pilot nationwide. One of the key findings in this area was "... unanimous support for the pilot model to be rolled out nationally" (page 99).
A fact sheet published by the District Court states "The pilot will now become permanent in Whāngārei and Auckland but any rollout to other centres depends on resourcing decisions beyond judicial control."
In a recently announced package of reforms to improve the justice response for victims of sexual violence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice Jan Logie recommended waiting to make a decision on national rollout of the pilot until after the evaluation of the pilot was completed.
The report was prepared by Gravitas Research and Strategy, an independent consultancy. Gravitas held interviews with complainants and interviews and focus groups with stakeholders. The Ministry of Justice analysed quantitative data for the report.
For more information, listen to an interview on Radio NZ with Former Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue (who was to be sworn in as a Justice of the High Court on 19 August 2019).
Victim advocates Louise Nicholas and Chief Victims Advisor Dr Kim McGregor welcomed the report findings.
For more information on the pilot, see our previous story New sexual violence court process to be piloted in Whangārei and Auckland and the research report Improving the justice response to victims of sexual violence: Victims' experiences (2018)
The Law Commission published the final report of the review of the Evidence Act 2006 which including a specific focus on rules of evidence related to sexual and family violence.
The Chief Victims Advisor Dr Kim McGregor has released two reports related to strengthening the criminal justice system for victims/survivors. This includes a report on the results from a survey of victims/survivors and a report summarising a workshop that took place in March 2019.
Professor Elisabeth McDonald from the University of Canterbury is "currently leading four projects, which are documenting the nature and process of questioning adult rape complainants. The aim of these projects, which include an evaluation of the questioning processes in the Specialist Sexual Violence Court Pilot, is to propose legal and procedural changes that are responsive to some of the concerns expressed about unfairness."