The Rights for Victims of Insane Offenders Bill includes some essential steps forward but must go further to give fair treatment to victims, says Victim Support. Victim Support today presented its submission on the rights of victims of legally insane offenders to the Justice & Electoral Select Committee. The committee will hear directly from affected victims later this week.
“At present, victims of an offender found not guilty on account of insanity are denied many of the most basic rights granted to other victims, despite serious harm or even death being caused.” says Victim Support spokesperson Dr Petrina Hargrave.
“Victims have no right to make a Victim Impact Statement, no say on the leave or release of the offender, and little ability even to be kept informed.”
The Rights for Victims of Insane Offenders Bill includes some important steps to give additional rights to victims of ‘special patients’ dealt with in the mental health system. Improvements include the right to submit on detention decisions for the patient and the right to be notified when a patient has unescorted community leave. The Bill also removes the words ’not guilty’ from insanity verdicts.
However, Victim Support say further steps are needed to give victims of legally insane offenders equality with the rights of other victims. Victim Support is calling on the committee to expand the Rights for Victims of Insane Offenders Bill to include:
“These basic steps can all be achieved without compromising the safety or wellbeing of the offender, but will give victims the ability to have a say in decisions about their case which have a huge impact on their own safety and wellbeing,” says Dr Hargrave.
“Crime victims in New Zealand have so few rights and so little voice as it is, but those harmed by someone not criminally responsible on account of legal insanity have even fewer.
“A victims’ experience should not be defined by whether their offender is a patient or a prisoner. Our law unfairly discriminates against anyone who is harmed by someone not criminally responsible on account of insanity, every step of the way,” says Dr Hargrave.
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