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 â€˜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 â€˜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?