Reports find criminal justice system failing victims/survivors of crime

Image: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Chief Victims Advisor Dr Kim McGregor has released two reports related to strengthening the criminal justice system for victims/survivors of crime.

The first is the results from a survey of victims/survivors of crime which was carried out in February 2019.

The second summarises a two-day workshop that took place in March 2019, also focused on victims/survivors' experiences of the criminal justice system.

Dr McGregor said:

“Through the survey, a majority of victims also told us that the criminal justice system doesn’t keep them safe, doesn’t provide them with enough support or information, and does not listen to their views, concerns or needs.

... It’s clear that we need to do better for victims. Victims’ needs, which are diverse and often complex, must be at the heart of any criminal justice reform."

Survey report

The Strengthening the Criminal Justice System for Victims survey asked victims/survivors of crime about their experiences of the current criminal justice system, what works well, what doesn’t work well, and how things could be improved. There were 620 responses to the survey.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 63% of respondents reported that their overall experience of the criminal justice system was either poor or very poor.
  • 83% of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed that the criminal justice system is safe for victims.
  • 77% of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed that victims’ views, concerns and needs are listened to throughout the justice process.
  • 79% of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed that victims have enough information and support (not including family and friends) throughout the justice process.

The survey report identified four key themes:

"1. The ideology of the criminal justice system is wrong: This theme covers the ideological failings of the current system, including the call for a paradigm shift from an offender-focussed system to one which is victim-focussed, the call for a shift from the adversarial system, and discussion of the values that victims envisioned for a future system. Also included in this theme is discussion about the system not working for Māori, the system not meeting the complex needs of victims, the call for a tougher approach on crime, and the call for a more rehabilitative approach.

2. The criminal justice system is failing to keep victims safe: This theme covers safety in several different ways, including physical safety, psychological safety, and financial safety. It highlights the call from victims that the system should keep victims safe throughout the court process, the system should keep victims safe beyond the court, the system should focus on supporting the victim, and the system should keep whānau and communities safe.

3. The criminal justice system is failing to communicate with victims: This theme comprises the system failing to keep victims informed, and the system failing to listen to victims or enable their voice to be heard.

4. The workforce of the criminal justice system can do better: This theme reflects negative feedback that we received about the workforce of the criminal justice system but also highlights ‘shining examples in the dark’: individuals and organisations that made a positive difference to victims’ journeys through the criminal justice system."

For each theme, the report examines the related findings including quotes from victims/survivors.

Workshop playback report

In March 2019, Dr Kim McGregor hosted a two-day workshop, Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata Safe and Effective Justice: Strengthening the Criminal Justice System for Victims. The workshop was attended by 160 victims, victim advocates, judiciary, government officials and victim experts. The workshop playback report captures discussion from the workshop.

The detailed report includes a summary of key messages from speakers and a table that outlines solutions across a number of issues. However, the main focus of the report collates feedback for 18 specific topics or issues. For each one of these, the report looks at what the issues are, the reality and gaps in the system, and solutions. These include issues for victims of sexual and family violence and a number of specific populations including Māori, Pasifika, ethnic and migrant communities, the Rainbow community, "vulnerable victims", children, and male victims of sexual abuse and violence.

For responses and commentary from advocates, see the media below.

Background information

Dr McGregor shared initial findings from the survey in her speech at the Strengthening the Criminal Justice System for Victims workshop in Wellington in March 2019.

The survey and workshop are part of the Government's wider criminal justice reform efforts, Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata Safe and Effective Justice. The reports from the survey and workshop complement other reports from the criminal justice reform process, including:

Report from Hui Māori: Ināia Tonu Nei - criminal justice reform

First report on criminal justice reform from Te Uepū Advisory Group

For more information see our previous news stories:

Justice reform survey open for victims/survivors of crime 

Criminal Justice Advisory Group public meetings; related research and reports

Summit and new advisory group to focus on criminal justice reform

Related news

Update: Victim Support has released their final report Victims’ Voices: The Justice Needs and Experiences of New Zealand Serious Crime Victims (2019). The report summarises findings from in-depth interviews with 32 victims of serious crime. They found that 68% of victims felt that justice had not been served in their case, despite 86% of cases resulting in a guilty verdict and 52% in imprisonment of the offender.

The Salvation Army has published Reconsidering the Aotearoa New Zealand Criminal Justice Policy Model (2019), the first of three briefing notes exploring criminal justice policy.

Related media

Justice reforms must do more than tick boxes for victims, Press Release: Victim Support, 29.08.2019

Most serious crime victims feel justice is not served despite guilty verdicts, Stuff, 29.08.2019

Departures will not 'hurt' justice reform group's report, RNZ, 23.08.2019

Borrows’ sense of justice guides sector reform, Newsroom, 14.08.2019

Julia Whaipooti talks to Dale Husband about: Survey shows criminal justice system is failing victims, Waatea News, 08.08.2019

Unsafe, unsupported, and not listened to: Victims feel failed by criminal justice system, Stuff, 07.08.2019

Criminal justice system failing victims, majority feel unsafe - Chief Victims Advisor, Newshub, 07.08.2019

Victims 'not feeling properly supported' through court system, Chief Victims Advisor says, One News, 07.08.2019