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In this issue: Victims Conference, National Child abuse awareness month, New contact details, Search for new lawyer, Automatic payment options, Christchurch Mosque attacks, New SST National Spokesperson, Submissions 
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April 2019

Hapaitia te Oranga Tangata –

A Safe & Effective Justice System

Victim Conference held 4-5 March 2019

Last year Minister of Justice Andrew Little launched Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata. The Safe and Effective Justice advisory group was formed to work alongside Justice Sector agencies and to support the reforms. Unfortunately, only two of the people in the group are Victim Advocates; the rest are academics.

In August of 2018 the Criminal Justice Summit was held at Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua. It was a get together of people involved in our criminal justice system, with the idea to develop a way forward for the reforms. We were promised a fairer, safer justice system for everyone within the system, including victims.

The Criminal Justice Summit was a huge disappointment. The event was attended by approximately 1000 people and cost circa $1.5 million of tax-payers money! The summit was focused on how unfortunate offenders are, how we should be more accepting of their circumstances, and that the system should apologise for how they have been treated because ‘offenders are victims too’. We believe if a victim commits a crime, they have crossed the line and become an offender; they are no longer victims!

We could not accept that the reform of the Justice System would not include REAL Victims and their needs for change. So, we stood strong and one of our Sensible Sentencing Group Trust (SSGT) Victim Advocates Jayne Walker stood up and told her story of how her baby girl was murdered and how she also nearly lost her life in the attack. This was the turning point, bringing the Summit back to the plight of REAL victims and from that, it was announced there would be a Victim Conference – they heard us!

The Victim Conference was held on the 4th and 5th of March this year and after attending that we have a little more hope that there will be some positive steps made for REAL victims moving forward.

We do feel a lot of good suggestions for change were made, and there are changes that can be made quickly. We suggested that the Government make a list, then divide into two. One that requires legislative change, that could be ‘parked’ and one that can be instigated as soon as possible - prioritise that list and start acting. They just need the courage to actually make the changes!

A great suggestion was the need for a Victims ‘navigator’ or a Minister of Victims, which is something SST and SSGT have long advocated, and in fact it is what our Victim Advocates already do – working with the victim or the family of the victim from the moment of the offending, right through the system to parole and beyond; providing both education and practical support during their time of trauma. We know this ensures the victims are not left feeling helpless, alone and ignored when they end up in this circumstance through no fault of their own. We believe it aids in minimising the trauma to victims which in turn will assist in their long-term health and well-being.

We bought up the need for equitable investment in victims, as there is for offenders - there is so much available for offenders but not victims. There also needs to be more flexibility round what services are offered to victims in regard to health and wellbeing requirements after the trauma of the incident, and to ensure they don’t go on to become sick. If their needs were met initially it would cost the government far less long term and be far more compassionate. This also includes Victim Support and their rigidity in what services they will cover with counselling and other services. i.e. only registered counsellors rather than specialised psychologists, hydro therapy and so on. Needs differ and therefore flexibility is required round different treatments.

Most of the speakers were academics, the only victim advocacy group to speak was Victim Support. There was no opportunity for groups such as our Victim Advocates who support the victims of serious violent crime, sexual violence and families of homicide victims to speak.

Judges, lawyers, academics, members of the Parole Board, Corrections staff and Police attended, and it was positive that they did, but there was no representative from Mental Health which was a huge disappointment given the number of offenders with mental health, drug and alcohol issues in prison.

Do we think there will be positive outcomes for victims from these meetings, going forward? We sincerely hope so as it will directly impact on victims and we look forward to hopefully seeing a positive change for REAL Victims.

Leigh Woodman - National Victims Advisor

ph: (03) 382 0710
mail: P.O. Box 38085 Parklands, Christchurch 8842, New Zealand



April – National Child Abuse Awareness Month

‘Our children are our most precious gifts; but they are also our most vulnerable’

New Zealand has one of the worst records of child abuse in the developed world. A shameful and devastating statistic. On average one child dies every five weeks as a result of violence. Violence that occurs in what should be the safety of a loving home.

Children under five years, and particularly infants and new born babies are the most at risk of violence and maltreatment. Ninety percent of all child deaths are perpetrated by someone they knew.

To read the graphic details of what many of our innocent children have endured by the hand of their offender is horrifying. No child should ever suffer such violence. We must stand together to end this heart-breaking abuse of our innocent children. Urgent changes must be made to improve the resources for the protection of our most vulnerable, our most precious victims.

One of the beautiful little angels we honoured during April – Child Abuse Awareness Month

We shared a new article each day, honouring the precious life of our most innocent and vulnerable victims.


 

We remember with Love Leith Allan Hutchison
22/01/2014 -23/04/2015
Adored and treasured son of Kate and best little buddy of his big brother Isaac.

Leith was a happy and healthy toddler enjoying life to the fullest. In January this year he would have turned 5 years old, but he was not there to blow out the candles on his cake. There was no proud Mum photo on Facebook of him in his first school uniform.

One night his Father was unable to settle him and thought he was unwell. Leith wasn’t breathing and in cardiac arrest when medical professionals got to him, they managed to stabilise him. However, Dr’s revealed a bleed to the brain. An investigation was launched into how such a horrific injury was sustained

Little Leith spent two days on life support before it was removed, and he left his Mummy to be with the Angels on the 23rd of April 2015

Leith’s Father lied to Police; he had shaken the wee toddler so violently that he was fatally injured.

This is one of the worst injustices we have ever seen. Dane Blake’s case was plea bargained down from Murder to Manslaughter. He was sentenced to only 5 years and 6 months BUT served less than 2!

Partners in Crime-Leigh and Jayne

Contact Details For Our SST/SSGT Team

Jess McVicar
National Spokesperson & Youth Spokesperson
Contact Details:
jess.youth@sst.org.nz
Phone: 021 230 2391

Leigh Woodman
National Victim Advocacy Manager
Contact Details:
ssgtvictims@ssgt.org.nz
Phone: 027 561 2119

Jayne Walker
South Island Victim Advocate & Administration Manager
Contact Details:
jayne@ssgt.org.nz
Phone: 021 881 623

Karrin Coates
Victim Advocate Waikato & Researcher
Contact Details:
karrin@ssgt.org.nz
Phone: 021 471 407

Amy Telfer Chiles
Dunedin Spokesperson
Contact Details:
amy@ssgt.org.nz
Phone: 027 298 3677

Jock Jamieson
Public Awareness & Education Spokesperson
Contact Details:
ssted@sst.org.nz

Neville Patterson
Offender Database Manager
Contact Details:
neville@sst.org.nz

“Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights.”

We all love a good joke whether it’s about door to door salesmen, tax collectors or lawyers but the fact is, in SST we don’t joke quite so much about lawyers because from time to time we value the knowledge and expertise they bring to some of the issues we encounter.

Right now, we are short of legal advice and need the services of a lawyer prepared to give of their time pro bono.

Do you know of a lawyer who could be prepared to assist us from time to time?

Mainly it will be for advice and perhaps occasionally to represent our interest in a legal scenario.

Please get in touch if you can help or if you know someone who can

Please contact: jess.youth@sst.org.nz
Call: 021 230 2391

The Ease of Automatic Payment Options

The Sensible Sentencing Group Trust (SSGT) Victim Advocates

People come to us when the system has let them down and they have had enough, and in fact sometimes very soon after the crime was committed. We offer a service that is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are unique, our Victim Advocates are victims of serious violent crime as well, so we understand the impact and trauma suffered by the victims and their families. We do this on a voluntary basis!

Please consider this. Many organisations go door knocking asking for, say $1 a day. They are quite right when they say you don’t notice it coming out of your bank account. The SSGT would be very grateful if people would consider setting up an automatic payment to give a little each week or month to the Sensible Sentencing Group Trust. It’s tax deductible, and it helps us to advocate and support victims all over New Zealand, through every facet of the Criminal Justice system. Our account details are Sensible Sentencing Group Trust: 03 0698 0096242 00. If you are a new member of the SSGT, we will also require your name, email and/or postal to send a receipt. We are grateful for all donations received and believe me, we can make $1 go a long way, thank you.

Christchurch, 15th March 2019 – Mosque Attacks
 

Never in New Zealand history have we ever seen such a horrific mass murder. Living in Christchurch on this day was surreal, my son and sister were in lockdown unable to leave their workplaces like so many others; there was so much uncertainty. What was happening? It was terrifying.

It is the intention of the Sensible Sentencing Trust to campaign for a Life sentence without Parole for this mass murderer under the 3 Strikes Law that SST worked tirelessly for the introduction of and which was passed in 2010. But I think the best scenario would be that we have an arrangement with Australia whereby we deport the murderer and Australia keep him in one of their maximum-security prisons for life without parole, and they foot the bill!

Our hearts go out to all the victims of the mosque attacks. We support victims of homicide daily, and from our own experience as victims ourselves, we understand the profound effects this has on families for life.
 

Public Generosity

The public of New Zealand have been extraordinarily generous, donating almost $10 million to Victim Support. Victim Support has been very unclear both in the media and to my inquiries as to where that money is going. What is clear is that these victims are being treated and respected and cared for EXACTLY how we would like our homicide victims to be treated. But sadly, that is not the case. We support vulnerable people struggling hugely daily. Some examples are:

  • 30 Counselling Sessions are provided but this is nowhere near enough for some victims/survivors, and some are having to pay for their own as they cannot cope without the assistance of the counselling. Often what works for one, does not work for another but Victim Support will not pay for a victim to use alternative therapy such as meditation or hydrotherapy, so they must pay for themselves. The victims are already struggling in many cases just to keep their heads above water both emotionally and financially, and this just adds to their trauma and long term, impacts their healing
  •  Some close family members not entitled to counselling so must pay their own
  • Victims being badgered and “dragged through the mud” at trial to try and make the offender look like the ‘victim’ or have less culpability. Sometimes the victim can be on the stand for a day or two and the effects are traumatising to the point they wish they had never laid a complaint in the first place
  • Lack of information: lesser charges being dropped without input from the victim i.e. victim doesn’t want charge dropped but has no say
  • Offenders breaching protection orders multiple times, and nothing being done
  • Release of threatening offenders within walking distance of victims’ homes
  • Difficulties with assistance in getting emergency housing
  • Feelings that funding and assistance is being delayed on purpose. Not easy to apply for
  • Multiple people not being told what they are entitled to and find out several years later, this could have eased their recovery
  • Funeral grants not covering the actual cost

This is just a snap shot of the issues we face daily and quite frankly we are exhausted. People have also not been told that Victim Support are 80% Government funded. That’s more than St John Ambulance Service receive. Victim Support are doing what they are paid to do anyway and unfortunately the rest of New Zealand’s victims are suffering. Our urgent enquiries are being answered far too late. In a complaint to CEO of Victim Support Kevin Tso I received a response saying “As you will appreciate, the incidents in Christchurch have meant that Victim Support is currently responding to a much larger than normal case load. We do apologise if there are some interruptions to normal levels of service as a result.” This is not good enough for our other victim/survivors of serious violent crime and families of homicide victims.

Jayne Walker - South Island Victim Advocate

Meet Jessica McVicar – Our New SST National Spokesperson
 

From a young age I have closely watched as the Sensible Sentencing Trust (SST) formed its pathway into becoming the largest Justice Reform Lobby Group in New Zealand. An incredible organisation that works tirelessly to fight for the victims of serious crimes; victims who no longer have a voice and for the families that have suffered the loss of a loved one as a result of serious violent crime. The SST continue to lobby for legislative change in the ongoing hope that New Zealand will be a much safer country for all to enjoy.

As a family we would often sit around the kitchen table discussing the New Zealand Justice system, I became increasingly motivated about the serious issues our country was facing. I watched with great pride as my Dad challenged the leaders of our country to correct the wrongs and to stand up for the rights of victims’. I have witnessed the heartbreak our victims have suffered when they are unfairly thrust into a Justice System, they did not ask to be a part of. I have listened to voices of the public outcry when offenders are gifted weak and unjust sentences. To know the threat of public safety for the protection of the convicted offender. I could no longer sit back and do nothing, so I got involved and became the Youth Advocate for the Sensible Sentencing Trust in 2015.

I have inherited my parent’s passion and dedication, an incredible gift that allows me to continue their fight for
justice. I believe it is now up to my generation to right the wrongs. To show New Zealand that our most vulnerable victims do not need to be yet another meaningless statistic. I know if we can invest our time and much-needed additional energy into our Youth Justice we will begin to see positive improvements leading to a decrease in crime.

Our current Youth Justice System has the idea that if give our youth ‘warnings’ instead of actually charging them with the crimes they have chosen to commit; it will deter them from committing further crimes. A theory that they have got horribly wrong. Whilst the statistics for Youth Court appearances appear to be decreasing, the crime rate is increasing. Handing out ‘warnings’ to youth offenders does absolutely nothing. Young offenders and their parents/caregivers are not being held accountable for the crimes they have committed.

I was raised with traditional values. I was taught to respect my elders. I was taught to respect other peoples’ opinions and to respect another person’s property. Unfortunately, these traditional values have become a missing link within the generations that follow mine. Good family values have evaporated, basic discipline seems to be a thing of the past. We no longer hold our youth accountable for their actions.

Accountability, Boundaries, Consequences and Discipline (ABCD’s) are no longer instilled in our youth. With Youth Justice failing to hold our young offenders to account we continue to put our community at risk. There are no consequences for the crimes young offenders are committing. There are no consequences for the parents or caregivers who are allowing their children to roam the streets and commit further crimes.

We need to strive for an ongoing reduction of criminal activity. We must review our current Youth Justice System. We would like to see the introduction of a demerit point system, to the likes of what is currently in place for driving offences. We would like to see an introduction of Youth Boot Camps run by military operations. This will not only remove the troubled youth from their ‘once were warriors’ lifestyle and hold them to account for their actions. This giving our youth offenders new hope, direction and the ability to learn new skills that will one day ensure they can have a positive future; especially within in the workforce. As the new Spokesperson for SST my role is to continue an incredible legacy left by my parents-focusing on the continued safety and justice for our communities.

An Invitation for SST and SSGT
 

Both the SST and SSGT were asked to participate in two legal reviews/submissions. We were extremely grateful for this opportunity. We were able to address several underlining issues that affect victims of sexual violence and to support the continued use of DNA when solving present and past violent crimes.

Firstly, we did a written submission for: The Law Commission’s Review of Criminal Investigation (Bodily Samples) Act 1995.

The topics addressed were DNA and the Treaty of Waitangi/Tikanga Māori, DNA-Blood Samples with Karakia’s, Tika Meaning Right or Correct, Examples of the Importance of DNA in Past and Present Cases, Prevention of Future Victims-Questions Regarding the Law Reform, Indirect Suspect Sampling-Samples of both Physical Evidence and Biological Evidence.

An extract taken from part of our submission regarding DNA- Māori Custom and Karakia’s:

There have been concerns regarding Māori giving DNA samples (toto-blood) as it is seen to disrespect culture, custom and protocol due to the body being tapu. This belief requires special consideration and respect. Taking blood from those who follow traditional Māori belief ’s is also considered tapu. If Māori follow their heritage (ngā taonga tuku iho nō ngā tupuna) and choose to donate blood, a karakia is needed before any blood can be removed from the body. It is an important ritual to lift tapu in Māori custom and can be done anytime.

A karakia can also be done before blood is removed for the use of DNA sampling and testing. For those who are Māori and follow their Māori Heritage the option of a Karakia can be offered.

Secondly, we did a written submission to the Crown Law. This was in favour of the Proposed Changes and Guidelines for Prosecuting Sexual Violence Support for Sexual Assault Victims, Being Informed/Victim Awareness, Safety of the Victim and Legal Information

An extract taken from part of our submission regarding-Support for Sexual Assault Victims

Any additional support, guidance and information offered to a victim before their pending trial would be of lasting benefit to them. The legal wording/legal processes can seem like a foreign language to most victims. For a victim facing their offender, going over the crime/s committed against them takes an incredible amount of strength and courage, something I believe our Justice System does not understand, nor does it acknowledge. For many victims; the trial they endured was just as horrific; if not worse than the sexual offending they had endured.

‘Small Changes Eventually Add Up to Huge Results’

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