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Victim impact statements

What is a victim impact statement?

Victims’ Rights Act 2002, s 17AA

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?

Victims’ Rights Act 2002, s 16

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?

Victims’ Rights Act 2002, ss 21-22A, 28D

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?

Victims’ Rights Act 2002, ss 23-27; 51A-51E

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.

Victims Code

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.

For more information about the code, go to the Victims Information website, here (or go to: www.victimsinfo.govt.nz, click on “Ways to get support,” and then “Victims’ rights”).

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The criminal courts

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Access the free “Lag Law: Your Rights Inside Prison and on Remand” book. This book answers heaps of common questions you might have if you’re going to prison, in prison, or getting out of prison.

Online: communitylaw.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Lag-Law-text-2021-1.pdf
Email for a hard copy: publications@wclc.org.nz
Phone: Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley – 04 499 2928

Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice provides useful information about court procedure for criminal matters.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/courts/criminal

Paying your fines

You can learn about, check or pay your fines (infringement and court-imposed) by phone or online. Unpaid fines can stop you leaving New Zealand – use Ministry of Justice’s fine checks form to find out if you have outstanding debt.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/fines
Phone: 0800 4 FINES (0800 434 637)

Fine checks form: www.justice.govt.nz/fines/find-out-if-you-have-a-fine-or-check-your-balance-online/fines-check-form

Department of Corrections

The Department of Corrections website has helpful information for offenders and their whānau. It provides insight into the procedure before sentencing, while in prison and on parole.

Website: www.corrections.govt.nz

Restorative Practices Aotearoa

Restorative Practices Aotearoa provides information on when restorative justice may be appropriate, and where in New Zealand it is available.

Website: www.restorativejusticeaotearoa.org.nz
Email: admin@rpa.org.nz
Phone: 0800 RJA INC (0800 752 462)

Information for victims

Victims Information

Victims Information provides help to victims of crime, their whānau or friends to deal with the practical and emotional effects of a crime. It also provides information to help victims understand the legal and court process.

Website: www.victimsinfo.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 650 654

Manaaki Tāngata – Victim Support

Victim Support provides a free, nationwide support service for people affected by crime, trauma, and suicide in New Zealand. They help clients to find safety, healing, and justice after crime and other traumatic events.

Website: www.victimsupport.org.nz
Phone: 0800 VICTIM (0800 842 846)

Victim notifications register

Victim notification gives victims of serious crime, who are registered on the victim notification register, a way to stay informed about the person who offended against them.

Website: www.corrections.govt.nz/information_for_victims/victim_notification_register

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