INDEPENDENT NEWS

Victims' Rights Bill Full of Wrongs

Published: Thu 23 Aug 2001 06:24 PM
Victims' Rights Bill Full of Wrongs
Thursday, August 23 2001
Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Justice, Law & Order
The Victims' Rights Bill reported back by the Justice & Electoral Select Committee today should have a new name, says ACT's Justice spokesman Stephen Franks, a member of the committee. "It should be called the 'Victims' Brush-Off Bill', or the 'Stay Out of this, We Know Best Bill'.
"Law students learn an elementary rule ' rights without remedies are not rights.
"The Bill expressly excludes any victims' right to damages if the so called 'rights' under the Bill are trampled. They are steered instead toward the Police Complaints Authority, the Privacy Commissioner, or the Ombudsmen. Ombudsmen can't order anything. They can only recommend.
"Under the Bill, victims still have no right to be heard in court. Victims have no right to comment on the sentence the criminal should get. Victims don't even have a right to make their own statement.
"What victims get, if the Judge agrees, is a right to read out a statement prepared by the Police. They cannot add to it. All victims can do is complain about their loss.
"Victims have no right to get the Court to order restitution or compensation. Victims have no right to cross-examine or to challenge claims made by the criminal or his lawyer.
"Victims have no right to be warned when a threatening breach of parole is discovered. Some victims are to of a breach ' but too late to be of any use. They are to hear about it only after the start of a prosecution for a breach.
"There is no right for a victim to know where the criminal is being released to, or what name or identity the criminal may be given. So the victims can send an argument to the Parole Board against release, or seeking conditions, but have no right to be told what they may really want to know ' that is, how to deal with risks when the parole nevertheless goes ahead.
"Family of the victims of Stephen Anderson who want to know about his time out from Porirua psychiatric hospital to celebrate his mother's birthday and who might have thought this bill would help will gain no comfort it. The things it lacks show that the self-anointed are still in charge of criminal justice. They are only making a pretence of taking victims seriously," Stephen Franks said.
For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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