A majority of crime victims feel they are failed by the criminal justice system, with some describing the process as worse than the crime they have suffered, a criminal justice workshop has heard.

And the Government's chief victims advisor Dr Kim McGregor says that the system is so "brutal" that even senior police and Ministers have told her they would not report an alleged rape of a loved one.

McGregor released the preliminary results of a new survey today at a two-day victims' hui in Wellington, which aims to inform the Government's reforms of the criminal justice system.

The hui heard about victim experiences including delays in proceedings, lack of input into bail conditions, feelings of being revictimised under cross-examination, and frustration and anxiety to the point that going through the system was as bad as the crime they had already suffered - or even worse.

Advertisement

More than 600 people, including about 550 victims of crime, took part in the survey, which was conducted last month:

• 57 per cent had either a poor or very poor overall experience of the criminal justice system; only 11 per cent said they had a good or very good overall experience.

• 78 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed that victims had enough information and support throughout the process.

• 76 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed that their views, concerns and needs were listened to.

• 82 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed that the system is "safe for victims".

A separate survey by Victim Support was also released, based on in-depth interviews with victims of serious crime. It showed that 59 per cent of victims said they had no faith in the justice system, and 68 per cent felt justice had not been served in their case.

"It seems there is very little about our system that is just or is fair," McGregor told the hui in her opening address.

She told the hui that many victims feel forgotten or sidelined, and that the process is "unfairly stacked in favour of the offender".

Advertisement

An offender had the right to silence, but victim is "ripped to shreds by a well-practised professional lawyer whose job is to destroy the credibility of the witness".

She said there was still no data on how many victims are in the system at any one time, or how many have had sufficient support.

Ministers and senior police have told her that if they or their loved ones were raped, they would not report it because they had such little faith in the system.

"That tells you how brutal the system is," she told reporters after her speech.

She said support was scattered across court, police, and Victim Support, and wanted a dedicated support worker assigned to a victim and their family for the duration of the process.

She also wanted a dedicated unit - such as a Victims Commission, similar to the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner - to track victims in the process and ensure their rights were upheld.

"We don't know how many victims get to have a victim impact statement. We don't know how many victims miss out on being put on the victims notification register.

"We have no idea how many have their rights upheld."

She said victims understood that evidence needed to be tested, but cross-examination could be respectful.

"Being called a liar over and over is not being treated with respect."

Justice Minister Andrew Little opened the hui and said he had sat with the family of Foxton doctor Howard Teppett, who was killed in 1993, to support them during the trial.

"The trauma of the loss of Howard in an act of violence was compounded by a system that was incapable of dealing with the family with empathy and sensitivity."

He said Victim Support, an independent charitable organisation that helped 36,000 victims in 2018, offered a great service but it was not consistent across the country.

Little wants to reform the criminal justice system and target the high rates of recidivism, but he said this did not have to be done at the expense of victims' rights.

Jan Logie, Justice Under-secretary for domestic and sexual violence issues, said the survey results were a "real call for us to do better".

She told the hui that new family violence legislation, an evaluation of family violence courts, and more funding for frontline services were improving the victim experience.

She added that there were now 10 public service bosses addressing family and sexual violence as a whole-of-Government response.

"It's not enough, but it's a start and I hope is evidence of our commitment."

She told media afterwards that some victims did not feel safe as they went through the justice process.

"Some people have told us that they felt worse at the end of the process than they did straight after the assaults."

The hui would also inform a national strategy to prevent family violence, due to come out later this year, she said.

The Victim Support survey identified three barriers to justice: fear, exclusion and unfairness.

Victim Support researcher Dr Petrina Hargrave said that victims commonly reported that they felt they had no genuine voice in the justice system.

"One victim told us, 'It's like you have no voice and they have no ears'," Hargrave said.

This week's victims' hui follows a justice summit held last year, and precedes a Maori hui next month.