Monday, 8 June 2009

a promising study

interesting interview on radio nz this morning (nine to noon, 9.35) with elizabeth macdonald, a professor of law at victoria university. she is conducting a study to investigate "pre-trial and trial processes for sexual offence cases".

the study, supported by the nz law foundation, will basically be reviewing overseas jurisdictions to see what aspects of trial process might be adopted here, in order to make the process less difficult for the complainant. some examples she gave were:
  • in dublin, the complainant is awarded funding for a lawyer to argue the specific decision about whether or not her previous sexual history is to be brought in as evidence. because our prosecution is not acting for the complainant, but rather treats the complainant as a witness in the case, it's possible that the arguments on this particular issue would be more robust if she had her own counsel
  • in australia, the complainant's evidence, including cross-examination, is video-recorded so that if there is a retrial, it won't be presumed that she will appear in court again
  • the possibility of having a separate court that deals only with sexual violation cases, just as they are trialling for domestic violence cases
  • the possbility of having greater reliance on documentary evidence, and less reliance on having the complainant in court

the study should take about 20 months, and will come up with recommendations for changes to the system. at that time, we'll see if the government has the will to make the necessary changes.


Hugh said...

20 months? I guess in the greater scheme of things that's not so long, but it's a bit disappointing to me. I'm sure most posters on this blog could tell the government what needs to be done, and they wouldn't need 20 months! Maybe 20 minutes.

stargazer said...

yeah, and we'd be laughed out of the place pretty quickly, especially given a lot of the reaction we've received when raising issues around consent. a detailed research paper might at least get taken seriously. as i said, it would depend on the government of the day committing to making improvements to the system.

and also, i'm sure all of us don't know all the ins and outs of all legal processes in various countries around the world. i certainly hadn't heard of the dublin measure, so i'm sure there would be useful things to be learned.