Summary of victims’ rights
Who can be a victim?
A “victim” includes:
- a person against whom an offence has been committed
- a person who is physically injured as a result of an offence
- a person who suffers loss or damage to property as a result of an offence
- a parent or legal guardian of a child or young person (17 and under) who is a victim
- an immediate family member of a person who dies or is made “incapable” as a result of an offence. “Incapable” means someone who lacks the ability to communicate or understand the consequences of their decisions and actions.
What are a victim’s rights?
If you’ve been the victim of a criminal offence, you have a number of rights that are intended to provide you with support, information and assistance when you’re dealing with the police and throughout the court process. You’ll also have the right to make your views known at certain points during the process.
Your rights include:
- Courteous treatment – the right to be treated with courtesy and compassion
- Dignity and privacy – the right to have your dignity and privacy respected
- Access to services – the right to have access to welfare, counselling, medical and legal services, Restorative Justice services that are responsive to your needs
- Support – the right to have a support person
- Having a say – the right to:
- provide a victim impact statement and have the judge take this into account when deciding on any sentence for the defendant (see “Victim impact statements”)
- have your views about releasing the defendant on bail put to the judge, if the case involves a sexual or violent offence
- participate in Parole Board hearings or meet with a Parole Board member if the offender is going to be considered for release from prison
- provide your opinion about bail (“victim view”). This is done via the victim advisers.
- Information – the right to be told:
- about the progress of the police investigation, including whether charges have been laid, and to be told the reasons if no charges are laid
- when and where each court appearance or hearing will be held
- about your role as a witness in the case
- whether the defendant has been released on bail and what the bail conditions are, but only if it’s a case involving a sexual or violent offence and you’ve told the police in advance that you want to be notified
- the outcome of the case, including the sentence if the defendant is convicted and the outcome of any appeals
- whether you can apply for a court order banning anyone from publishing details that would identify you, and how to apply for these orders.
Note: Most of the rights in the Victims’ Rights Act aren’t legal rights that can be enforced in the same way as rights under other Acts. However, the Act does specify that if you think your rights as a victim have been breached, you can complain to the person whose decision or behaviour you’re unhappy about. That other person must deal with your complaint promptly and fairly. In appropriate cases you can also complain to the Ombudsman, the Independent Police Conduct Authority or the Privacy Commissioner.
Victim notification register
A victim of a “specified offence” can apply to be on the victim notification register. A “specified offence” under the Victims Rights Act is an offence:
- of a sexual nature or a serious assault
- that resulted in serious injury to a person, the death of a person or the person becoming “incapable” (meaning they lack the ability to communicate or understand the consequences of their decisions and actions)
- of another kind, that has led to you having ongoing fears, on reasonable grounds, for your physical safety or security, or for the physical safety or security of your immediate family.
Victims on the victim notification register will get notifications about the person who offended against them. Victims can apply to be on the register at any stage after an offender has been charged by asking their local police station or contacting Victim Support.
A victim can nominate a representative to get information on their behalf. If a victim no longer wants to get information about the offender, they can close their registration at any time. The type of notification victims can receive will be information about when an offender is on home detention, in prison or on parole.
Non-contact orders: Avoiding contact from the offender after cases of serious violence
Victims of serious violent offences can apply to the District Court for a non-contact order against the offender after the offender has been sentenced. The order prevents the offender from doing things like watching or hanging around your home or work, following or stopping you in the street, or contacting you by letter, phone, email or any other way.
If the offender does any of these things, they can be imprisoned for up to two years or fined up to $5,000. The order lasts for two years, unless the judge decides on a different period.
Victims of young offenders
Most of the rights in the Victims’ Rights Act 2002, listed above, apply also to victims of offences or alleged offences committed by young people and dealt with under the youth justice laws (go to www.youthlaw.co.nz for more information).