Law Commission Report could help family violence sexual victims

The Law Commission today publishes its report The Second Review of the Evidence Act 2006 – Te Arotake Tuarua i te Evidence Act 2006. The report considers a range of issues with the Evidence Act, the legislation governing evidence in criminal and civil cases, and makes 27 recommendations for reform. These include reforms designed to improve the court process for victims of sexual and family violence, while at the same time ensuring defendants’ rights to a fair trial are preserved.
“Our consultation highlighted that the process of giving evidence can be particularly stressful for complainants in sexual and family violence cases,” said Hon Sir Douglas White. Our review has also shown there is a risk of jurors being affected by myths and misconceptions about sexual and family violence. We are therefore recommending a number of improvements to the rules of evidence in sexual and family violence cases.”
These recommendations include:
There should be tighter controls on admitting evidence of a complainant’s previous sexual experience with the defendant and evidence of a complainant’s sexual disposition.
Family violence complainants should be entitled to record their evidence (including evidence in-chief and cross-examination) in advance of the trial and have the video played at the hearing. The Commission has previously made similar recommendations in relation to sexual
violence complainants.
Judges should be required to intervene when questioning of a witness is unacceptable.
Judicial directions should be developed to address myths and misconceptions that jurors might hold in sexual and family violence cases.
These are significant changes that could help victims of sexual violence better navigate the judicial system. Take for example the myths that too many jurors might think are real, which the report suggests should be addressed.
• A complainant who dresses ‘provocatively’ or acts ‘flirtatiously’ is at least partially responsible for the offending.
• A complainant who drinks alcohol or takes drugs is at least partially responsible for the offending.
• “Real rape” is committed by strangers and/or sexual violence by a partner or acquaintance is less serious.
• It is not rape unless the offender uses force or the complainant suffers physical injuries.
• A family violence victim can avoid future violence by leaving the relationship.
Fore more information read the Law Commission Press Release or the full report.

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