A move away from the adversarial court system for sexual and domestic violence may be back on the agenda after the resignation of former Justice Minister Judith Collins, a senior National MP says.
Coromandel MP Scott Simpson, who has chaired Parliament's justice and electoral committee since February last year, told an election forum on the Family Court at Auckland University that he was "open and willing and keen" for a debate about changing the system in which adversarial lawyers now grill abuse victims.
"There will be a new Minister of Justice after the election because Judith Collins has resigned," he said.
"This is a debate we should have. There are some enormous challenges with the current system, and we should be brave enough as a nation to have that discussion."
Ms Collins' predecessor Simon Power asked the Law Commission to investigate alternatives to the adversarial system, including a specialist sexual violence court similar to the Drug and Alcohol Courts which could direct an offender to a treatment course, and giving victims an option of alternative non-trial procedures such as restorative justice.
Ms Collins stopped the project in 2012, saying it would not be practical to have a European-style judge-led or inquisitorial system for sexual cases because offenders may also face other charges in mainstream courts.
Mr Simpson acknowledged that change would not be simple.
"Our whole justice system needs to be one that has a common thread through it, and I'm not sure we could have an adversarial system for parts of our justice system and an inquisitorial system for other parts," he said.
"I would be open and willing and keen for a discussion and a debate, but I don't think it's as simple as just flicking a switch."
Labour justice spokesman Andrew Little said the Law Commission saw value in a judge leading the process in sexual cases to ensure victims were not revictimised.
Labour MP Andrew Little
"As a matter of principle we are very keen to support the establishment of an inquisitorial approach to that form of offending, and we will refer that to the Law Commission."
He said Labour would also ask the commission to review the legal definition of sexual violation, which depends on a lack of consent.
He said in July that if the Crown proved sex had taken place, proved the defendant's identity and claimed a lack of consent, then the burden of proof should be on the defendant to show that consent was given.
A woman who has endured domestic violence through 38 years of marriage told the forum that she did not want her husband jailed, but she wanted a system that would get him the help he needed for mental and addiction issues stemming from abuse he suffered as a child.
Mr Little said a "hybrid" system was needed that achieved both justice and treatment.
Mr Simpson said: "Your story confirms for me that our justice system is not the right place for those matters that affect you to be addressed."