Victim impact statements
What is a victim impact statement?
If you’ve been the victim of an offence, you have the right to tell the judge, through a victim impact statement, how the offence has affected you. The statement should be made to the charging officer as soon as possible after the incident.
The purpose of the statement is also to make sure that the defendant is aware of the effect of their offending from your point of view. You can choose whether or not to make a victim impact statement – it is not compulsory.
What information is in a victim impact statement?
The victim impact statement should include details of:
- Physical injuries – the extent of your injuries, any illness you have developed as a result of those injuries, any medical treatment required, the impact of the injuries or illness on your lifestyle, for example work, sport or hobbies.
- Emotional harm – effects on your feelings, behaviour and relationships, short or long-term mental health trauma such as PTSD, depression or anxiety, and any counselling you have received.
- Financial effects – like medical expenses, time off work and the difference between your lost wages and any ACC you may have received, and loss or damage to property.
The victim impact statement should say if you want the defendant to pay you compensation (“reparation”) for any damage or loss you were caused by what they did.
Your victim impact statement will be prepared in discussion with the police prosecution (usually this is the police and should be signed off by you within 28 days of the sentencing date).
Who gets to see the victim impact statement?
The victim impact statement is also given to the defence lawyer, although the defendant is not allowed to keep a copy. The judge can also order that the victim impact statement not be given or shown to the defence if that is necessary to protect the physical safety or security of the victim. Victim contact details will not be disclosed, except in very limited circumstances.
The judge will consider the statement when deciding what sentence to give the defendant.
How is a victim impact statement presented to the judge?
Your victim impact statement is usually presented to the judge in writing. However, you can ask the judge to allow some or all of it to be read aloud in court, either by the prosecutor or by you or someone else on your behalf – for example you can ask the victim adviser to stand with you in court or read it for you if you prefer.
The judge usually must allow this if the case involves a sexual or violent offence, and in other cases the judge has a discretion to allow it. The prosecutor can also ask the judge to allow some or all of the victim impact statement to be presented in some other way, such as an audio recording of you speaking.
If you are a victim in a sexual violence case, you can also ask for the courtroom to be cleared of everyone except for certain people while your victim impact statement is read or presented to the court.
What happens to a victim impact statement after court?
If the judge mentions details of your victim impact statement at sentencing, then those comments can be reported by the media. Media cannot name sexual violence victims or child victims in their reports.
At the end of the court case, all copies of the victim impact statement must be returned to court staff and the victim impact statement becomes part of the court file. However, victims, court staff, police, probation, the prosecutor, or other people allowed by the court may keep a copy. The defence can’t keep a copy unless you agree.
A code for victims was developed by the Ministry of Justice, as required by provisions added to the Victims’ Rights Act 2002 in June 2014. The purpose of the code is to provide better information to victims about their rights, the services available to them, and the various duties that government agencies have when dealing with victims.