Changes to the way sexual violence cases are handled in court were recommended in a report by the New Zealand Law Commission, with the majority of recommendations supported by Tauranga organisations.
The Law Commission reviewed the justice system experiences of sexual violence victims and released the recommended changes on Monday, including a specialist sexual violence court, with judges receiving extra training, time limits for sexual violence cases going to trial, and the option of alternative processes outside of the criminal justice system.
Justice Minister Amy Adams said, in a press release, the Government would consider the recommendations.
"Victims of sexual violence have already suffered a harrowing ordeal. It's worth exploring any ideas for how the justice system can better meet their needs," Ms Adams said. The report found a victim's recovery time could be delayed due to the time spent waiting for trial and having to give evidence in court.
Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Angie Warren-Clark said changes to the justice system were "absolutely fundamental".
Ms Warren-Clark thought the recommendation of specialised courts would be appropriate to support the need for privacy for victims, and hoped the Ministry would invest in training across the justice sector. However Ms Warren-Clark said she "would proceed with caution" with an alternative court process, which would keep the process outside the criminal justice system.
Senior Tauranga criminal lawyer Rachael Adams said many professionals involved with sexual violence cases in court thought "the criminal justice system is not designed to deal with such complex and sensitive issues".
"We must look at alternatives," Ms Adams said.
"The challenge will be to balance the need to protect and support victims, against the right of any accused person to be presumed innocent and to be able to challenge and test evidence, sometimes strongly."
Tauranga Living without Violence general manager Mary Beresford-Jones said the current legal system posed a challenge for many women.
"It's not set up well for victims of sexual violence. For a woman to get to that point there needs to be a level of strength and resilience and a lot of support," Ms Beresford-Jones said.
She said the current system tended to "lack analysis of how and why", when it dealt with cases of sexual violence. Living without Violence saw about 200 women a year and many of them had suffered sexual violence.
Te Tuinga Whanau spokesperson Piki Russell said they too were encouraging the justice system to look at different concepts.