When Labour took office in 2017, it commissioned a series of justice summits that led many in the sector to believe that transformational change was coming to what was considered a broken system. Very little happened afterwards, but now Budget 2022 has renewed some optimism in the sector.
When she first became Chief Victims Advisor in 2015, Dr Kim McGregor asked for the end-to-end process for victims in the criminal justice system to be mapped out.
"It was in the old days, sort of putting paper on the wall - and they had 16 walls! It was so complex," McGregor told the Herald.
This represents what's wrong with the criminal justice system and why victims are often retraumatised by it. There are innumerable paths a victim can take, and they're all covered by agencies inside and outside Government that don't really talk to each other.
"One victim had to tell their story to 25 different agencies to try and get the help they needed. It's not just police and court victim advisors. It's also ACC, WINZ, doctors... and every time they've got to tell their story again," she says.
"That's the sort of thing that victims are up against, and they get worn out by the system. They get defeated by the system."
These issues were laid bare in her 2019 report Te Tangi o te Manawanui, where victims said they felt unseen, unheard, and with no rights compared to offenders.
Often they weren't aware of their right to have certain information, or to be heard on a bail application, and so weren't even in a position to exercise that right.
In her independent role, McGregor has persistently been asking for these wrongs to be righted. The Government has finally responded in Budget 2022, with $45.7m over four years for a Victims Operating Model.
"It's going to join up the siloed parts of the justice system. It's what I've been asking for for several years," McGregor says.
"There hasn't been a victims-focused team with a view across the entire system - police, courts, corrections, parole board - from a victim's perspective.
"It's hugely significant. I couldn't be more delighted."
She says it has the potential to bring meaningful change to hundreds of thousands of Kiwi victims, but with one not insignificant caveat: they won't see any change on the ground anytime soon.
Unseen, unheard, no information and too many delays
McGregor's 2019 report showed that victims were so despondent about the criminal justice process that they advised others not to lay complaints with police at all.
Only a quarter of victims report their crimes to police, and this falls to lower than one in five for family violence, and only six per cent for sexual assault crimes.
According to the NZ Crime and Victims survey, 29 per cent of those aged 15 and over - or roughly 1.1 million New Zealanders - were victims of an offence in the last 12 months.
The first task for the Budget money is to identify the current gaps in the justice system for victims of crime.
And there are many, according to McGregor.
For example, victims have a right to be heard at different stages of the justice process, including on applications for name suppression, bail and parole, and to make a victim impact statement.
"Most victims are not told about their rights right from the beginning," McGregor says.
"It's the delays and the lack of information, and the lack of preparation. When they make a complaint to the police, for example, they need to know the minute that [the accused] is going to be interviewed. The victim's on tenterhooks, worrying about whether there might be some retaliation if there are no charges laid or if there's no arrest.
"It's the overlap between the different siloed agencies that is often the gap for victims. They don't feel safe because they're not getting the information they need."
Another issue is the thousands of victims who are not on Corrections' victim notification register, which can inform a victim if an offender escapes from prison or is released on home detention.
"Is it that the police are not trained to understand that when a victim has fears for their safety, that's an automatic trigger to put them on the register? Those are the sorts of things that can be a game-changer for improving victims' safety," she says.
"I hear quite frequently about the gap between breaches with electronic bail monitoring, and how that information gets to the victim. That's a particular area that I am hoping they'll focus on."
Another crucial missing piece, she says, is that victims' complaints can get lost in the justice ether. She's hoping the new model identifies a way to ensure they all become part of a "feedback loop" that will see the system continuously improved.
McGregor concedes that change doesn't happen overnight, and it will be several years before victims on the ground see any meaningful change in the system.
Why does it take so long?
"I wish I knew the answer to that. I want it to have happened yesterday. And it can't happen fast enough.
"I know that there's been very little change that can be seen on the ground. It's going take at least two or three years before we'll probably see any changes.
"We need to build the operating model, and then implement it, and then that might require training, new IT systems being set up... That will take some time."
Budget 2022, she notes, also included $12.3m over three years for the Victim Assistance Scheme, which provides money to victims of serious crime for unexpected expenses. The additional money could help 6500 such victims next year.
Nor has nothing been happening, she says, including work in police and Corrections to improve victims' experiences. But the operating model will be the first cross-sector approach with victims at the centre.
So what happens now?
The first step is to set up the right team, which will then traverse much of the same ground that McGregor has already covered - but with a much finer comb.
"They will have people from police, courts, Corrections, who will be able to see, for example, if there's a breach of bail, how that was monitored, how Corrections informed police, when the officer in charge gets that information, and when they get it to the victim.
"It's that minutiae that I want the system to dig into, and that I can't do."
McGregor concedes that a number of recommendations in her 2019 report are still unaccounted for in the Budget 2022 funding.
One was for an independent advocate to walk through the justice system with victims, ensuring they know their rights at each stage and have all the information they're entitled to as quickly as possible.
"I don't think there's enough money in there for that," McGregor says, but the operating model might eventually decide that it's needed and then apply for more funding.
Another was for an independent Victims' Commission to hear and investigate complaints, which McGregor says would be great if it eventuated, but the Budget 2022 funding is better directed because it will lead to quicker changes on the frontline.
McGregor's role remains independent, but she's been asked to be involved in the new operating model.
"I think that's really important because I'm getting direct complaints from victims. It's really helpful to be able to have everyday examples so that they can't think that it's already been fixed."
There is currently no shortage of those, she adds.
"I can often give examples that's happening every single day."