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Child Witnesses Report Launched

( Justice Minister Simon Power has welcomed the report ‘Child Witnesses in the New Zealand Criminal Courts’, launched today by Auckland University of Technology’s Institute of Public Policy.

“Improving the treatment of children, especially those involved in the criminal justice system, is one of the Government’s main priorities, and I will be seriously considering the report’s findings,” Mr Power said.

The report examines the treatment of child witnesses in criminal courts and how police and court processes may impact on the quality of children’s evidence.

“Child complainants and witnesses are particularly vulnerable to the adversarial nature of our criminal justice system, especially when it comes to giving evidence.

“Though there are specialist practices to accommodate the needs of child witnesses, the report has identified concerns about the implementation of these practices.

“The Government needs to look at ways to minimise the amount of time children spend in the criminal justice system, particularly the court process.

“The Ministry of Justice is exploring what operational improvements can be made to ensure existing law and policy is properly and consistently implemented, and to resolve any regional variation in practices and delivery of services.

“Officials will work with other government agencies to develop best-practice guidelines that ensure children receive the best possible care. They will also look at ways of increasing participation in the Court Education for Young Witnesses programme.

“I’m keen to investigate how other jurisdictions treat child witnesses, particularly during questioning, forensic interviewing, and pre-recorded videotaping of evidence.

“These may surpass our current criminal processes and could provide models for future development that could be adapted to the New Zealand context.

“I have already asked the Law Commission to look into inquisitorial justice systems, and I will be in Europe in June to look at inquisitorial models and meet specialists on the treatment of child witnesses.

“The Government is already tackling court delays, with moves under way to simplify the court process, for example through the greater use of audio-visual links.”

Media Release 22 April 2010 from Hon Simon Powers, Minister of Justice.
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