Changes to sexual violence laws aimed at avoiding revictimisation of survivors

Changes to sexual violence laws aimed at avoiding revictimisation of survivors

Survivors of sexual violence may no longer have to face questions about their sexual history in court if a proposed law change goes through.

The law changes are aimed at avoiding the revictimisation of sexual violence survivors.

Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice, Jan Logie, said everyone who had  been harmed by sexual violence deserved to have justice delivered without going through more, avoidable, trauma.

“Research consistently shows that giving evidence is the hardest part of the justice process for sexual violence victims. We know fear and anxiety about appearing in court and going through cross-examination prevents many people from reporting what has happened to them.”

The changes target the judicial process, and included giving sexual violence survivors the right to choose how to give evidence and undergo cross-examination.

This could be via audio-visual link or a pre-recorded video.

In the cases of a re-trial, the survivor’s evidence could be recorded to avoid having to give it again.

There would also be more “certainty” for judges to intervene in “unfair or inappropriate questioning, and to address common myths and misconceptions about sexual violence”, a statement from Logie’s office read.

The 2019 Well-Being Budget had allocated $32.8m in funding, plus $5m in capital, to support the implementation of the reforms.

Most of the funding was making pre-recorded cross-examination nationally available. The costs were expected to reduce over time, as pre-recording became a standard process.

Logie said the reforms had responded to Law Commission recommendations and reflected the calls for change that had been coming from the sector “for over a decade”.

“They will make a significant difference for victims and survivors of sexual violence while ensuring trials are a fair and robust process.”