A Hastings woman who leads the national annual memorial for families of murder victims says in her opinion the New Zealand justice system still hasn't gotten it right.

Coleen Davey works year-round to support the families of people who have been murdered, the families she said were the ones who became the victims in the end.

"They have to live with the loss."

"Our justice system stinks here," she said.


"If they've taken a life they should pay with a life, I don't mean dying but spending their life in prison."

After 23 years of running the memorial Ms Davey said today's service would be like any other, just with a few more names added to the list.

Other towns used to do it, but she said she believed Hawke's Bay was now the only one and she would continue to run it "until the day I die".

"We get people from all over Australia, other overseas places coming to the memorial."

The names which were put on the "roll of honour" which was read out at each memorial were those of people who had been murdered in New Zealand or a New Zealander who had been murdered overseas.

Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar said he had attended a number of the memorials and "takes his hat off" to Ms Davy for her commitment and determination.

Not only does Ms Davey facilitate the memorial each year but she also sends each family who is on the roll of honour a Christmas card.

When someone is murdered she sends the family a letter inviting them to the memorial, a letter on which she writes "only open when you're ready" so families can grieve in their own time. Mr McVicar said he agreed with Ms Davey about sentencing, "some offenders are so evil the only way to protect the public from them is to keep them in prison".

"There is a category of offender that a life-sentence should actually mean they die in prison."

He said families of people who were murdered used to be ignored by the justice system but that was now changing dramatically thanks to the three strike law.

He said the rate of murder and general crime was trending down as the message of public safety was becoming paramount.

"Crime is a choice made by the offender, the victims have none," Mr McVicar said.

New Zealand statistics reported that between 2004 and 2014 there were 41 murders recorded in the eastern district, 2015 figures were not yet available.

In 2004 there were five murders recorded and 10 years later in 2014 there was just one recorded.

New Zealand murder victims will be honoured today at 3pm at Hastings Clock Tower.

The "roll of honour" of murder victims' names would be read, including Jack Nicholas, Hawke's Bay's notorious, unsolved murder case.

The memorial is part of the Feelings For Folk of Murder Victims organisation which was created after the rape and murder of 15-year-old Kylie Smith in 1992.

A petition calling for harsher penalties and justice for victims was set up after her murder and was presented to Government on February 16, 1993.

The memorial service honouring all murder victims had been held on February 16 ever since.

Ms Davey said the service was to ensure people never forgot.