Wellington: The New Zealand government introduced a new law on Thursday to improve the experience of victims in the justice system.
The Victims of Sexual Violence (Strengthening Legal Protections) Legislation Bill will address known issues in the justice system by reducing the risk of child victims of sexual violence being questioned about consent while in court, said Justice Minister Ginny Andersen.
It will also give adult victims of sexual violence more say over their automatic name suppression, Andersen said, adding victims often “feel unsafe, retraumatized and like their voices are not being listened to”, reports Xinhua news agency.
“Child victims of sexual violence can be further traumatized when giving evidence at trial,” she said.
The bill increases the maximum penalty for the offence of sexual connection with a child to 20 years imprisonment to align with that of sexual violation.
The government has progressed with boosting the Victim Assistance Scheme, with an estimated 10,000 more grants available to victims of serious crimes.
This includes increased financial support for homicide victims and their families, a dedicated counseling grant for victims of serious crime, an increased hourly rate available for counseling for victims, and a new grant for victims of sexual violence, the minister said.
Three new pilot programs to address known gaps in the justice system for victims are now underway and will run for a year, Andersen said, adding the programs will inform a more victim-focused justice system in the long term.