Offender levy kicks in Thursday

By Kate Chapman

Victims of domestic abuse will be given a five day reprieve from their alleged abusers when new police safety orders become available from Thursday.

Justice Minister Simon Power today outlined a range of measures to help victims of crime that come into force on July 1.

They include the introduction of police safety orders for victims of domestic violence when police do not have enough grounds to make an immediate arrest.

The on-the-spot orders will allow police to remove an alleged offender from a home for up to five days to "calm things down", Mr Power said.

"This will provide a period of safety in which victims can consider their future options, including the possibility of a court protection order."

Courts will also be able to issue a protection order on behalf of a victim when an offender is sentenced for domestic violence.

The National Network of Stopping Violence Services said the safety orders would only work if community groups were given more funding to work with families.

There had been no additional funding for services to work with the victims or offenders to stop domestic violence, national manager Brian Gardner said.

The changes to victim support will be funded by the $50 offender levy to be charged to anyone convicted of a crime from Thursday.

Mr Power said the Government was confident 60-67 per cent of those levies would be collected - netting about $13.6 million over the first four years.

"We've taken a very conservative modelling approach to it so as not to overstate it."

The levy will be paid after reparation but before any fines.

Mr Power said the victim initiatives would not take away their pain but would "make a real difference".

"You'll see that July 1 is a significant milestone for victims but I'm determined it won't be the end of my work to put victims first."

The Ministry of Justice was also looking at censorship of victim impact statements, victim-prosecutor communication and the victim notification system.

Changes were also likely in the way courts treat child and sexual abuse victims and simplifying and speeding up the court system.

Labour leader Phil Goff said the Government was launching the victims initiatives for the "15th time".

"[They're] saying they stand up for the rights of victims while they are cutting the support for counselling for victims of sexual crimes, where 90 per cent of women are losing the support that they needed for offences that they have suffered from.

"Don't pretend to support the victims when you are cutting support for them under ACC."

Police Minister Judith Collins said that 20 years ago victims were seen as witnesses whose testimony could help win a case.

"The experience of the justice system was impersonal and brutal. Victims often compared it to being victimised all over again."

Repairing the harm of crime was complicated but there were things that could be done, including providing victims with good information and helping them to understand how the system works and their rights.

Victim Support and the police will create a National Contact Service to handle phone requests from police for Victim Support help.

Police had also appointed National Victim Service manager Wendy Robilliard to reinforce the police focus on victims, Ms Collins said.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad said police business had been "catching and apprehending offenders and putting them behind bars".

But the crime cycle was more complicated than that, he said.

Police relied on victims' help.

The on-the-spot safety orders would be especially helpful for police and would be more effective than a warning in domestic violence incidents, he said.

Victim Support chief executive Tony Paine said prevention was the best way of reducing harm to victims of crime but that would be "inter-generational" and victim support was important in the meantime.

The new resources would become and "essential part" of helping victims deal with the aftermath of crime, he said.

The changes include:

For families of homicide victims

* Up to $4500 for a funeral grant on top of the amount they can claim from ACC;

* A High Court attendance grant of $124 a day for up to five adults;

* A discretionary grant of $1500-$5000 per family for those suffering financially;

* Four homicide support service coordinators to be provided by Victim Support.

For victims of sexual abuse

* A grant of up to $250 to meet one-off expenses incurred as a result of the assault (administered by Victim Support through a $500,000 fund);

* Eighteen trained and experienced sexual abuse victim advisers in courts.

General victims

* Increases in travel, accommodation and childcare assistance for victims attending court and parole board hearings;

* New information resources including a DVD, pamphlets and a website.


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