National’s victims policy

Written By: - Date published: 12:38 pm, March 31st, 2008 - 3 comments
Categories: crime, national - Tags: ,

National has proposed several initiatives around victims’ rights, most of which are based on policy already under development by the Ministry of Justice.

Sure to gain media attention is the ‘Victims’ Compensation Scheme’ to be funded from a levy of $50 on every convicted offender. This is meant to fund victims’ costs ‘such as travel to court and additional counselling’. Problem is with 110,000 convictions a year, the Scheme will raise $5 million, which isn’t going to go very far for victims. And that’s assuming it’s a $50 levy for each conviction. National seems to be saying it’s $50 per convicted offender, many offenders are convicted of multiple charges, in which case the Scheme may raise less than $1 million a year. And what if offenders can’t pay? Then there is a natural justice issue, should offenders in ‘victimless crimes’ be forced to pay a levy for victims? These are just some of the more basic design issues that the Ministry of Justice deals with around victim compensation; National seems to have no appreciation of them.

National would also take away from offenders any compensation they have received for mistreatment while in prison. You may remember there was a furore over this several years ago: over a hundred prisoners had been held in prison beyond their release dates; they were, therefore, being detained without legal cause. They received compensation in one of the last cases to go to the Privy Council. Other prisoners have received compensation for being physically abused by prison staff. National will take away those damages payments, which surely creates a moral hazard for Corrections.

So, there you have it. Under National if you are the victim of a crime you might be able to apply to have your bus fare to Court covered by the VCS and if you are imprisoned for a crime Corrections staff can do whatever they like to you, even if you do get compensation National will take it off you.

Also, these policies are going to take staff to administer. Didn’t John Key just promise to not increase the number of ‘bureaucrats’, including Justice staff?

3 comments on “National’s victims policy”

  1. AncientGeek 1

    This policy is pretty strange, especially for a party that purports to be also wanting to cut the waste out of government.

    The courts already levy fines, which frequently have very high collection costs compared with the returns. Those fines make up the majority of those 110,000 convictions. The average fine is many times larger than the $50.

    I’d imagine the collection costs alone will be suck up all of the money collected, and then some. Thats why court fines aren’t exactly profitable, and has a considerable aged accounts payable.

    This is the idea of some brainless wonder in the Nats who hasn’t bothered to think what it would mean beyond the immediate headlines. They’re looking for a quick fix and the PR, not a solution.

    The compensation issue is a bit more serious. It is a direct attack on the authority of the courts and the legal system as a whole. These are civil cases and would largely be governed by civil common law. In effect the national party is saying that they know more about the justice expressed in the law than legal traditions going back to the romans.

    Somehow I don’t buy it. Just hunting for a headline, and doing it very stupidly. Says it all about national party policy really.

  2. Draco TB 2

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/466/story.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10501292

    The reporter goes on a long spiel about how things aren’t working to well in the justice department. Then tells us everything that Labour is doing about it (ie sending it to the law commision) and then finishes with

    In politics, such a vacuum is there for Oppositions to fill. National has jumped right into it.

    Yep, the government doing the right thing and getting actual legal council over any changes needed is a vacuum.

    The Granny showing its bias again or the reporter showing their stupidity or both.

    I’m going to have to agree with AG – this is National looking for some PR by promising a quick fix (maybe we should offer them some duct tape).

  3. randal 3

    if national get in then do we all get $50?

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