Justice Minister Simon Power today welcomed the publication of national guidelines for government agencies, and a new information leaflet for families supporting child witnesses through the criminal justice system.
The guidelines have been developed by the Ministry of Justice, Police, Child, Youth and Family, and Crown Law in response to a report by Auckland University of Technology’s Institute of Public Policy.
The report identified a need for greater consistency between government agencies on how child witnesses are supported through the criminal justice system.
“These guidelines will ensure government agencies deliver the best possible service to child witnesses from the time of their first interview to the conclusion of criminal proceedings.”
Mr Power said the Ministry of Justice is also distributing a new leaflet for families and carers of child witnesses which details how the criminal justice system works and where they can go to get support.
The leaflets are being distributed to agencies that come into contact with child witnesses and their families.
“Being a witness in criminal proceedings is a highly stressful time for anyone, let alone a child.”
“We must do everything we can to ensure that the approximately 750 children who give evidence in a criminal court case each year are not re-brutalised by their participation in the process.”
Mr Power said the Government intends to announce proposals later in the year to reduce the unacceptable average of 15 months which child witnesses are waiting to have their cases processed through the courts, to improve the questioning of children, particularly during cross-examination, and ensure that the most reliable and accurate evidence is elicited.
The national guidelines can be found here.
The leaflet can be found here.