Release: A faster justice system focused on victims

Labour will help more victims of crime achieve justice faster by introducing a formal class-action regime, modernising consent laws and increasing the use of technology to speed up hearings.

  • Establish a formal class actions regime to help groups of victims achieve justice
  • Modernise consent law
  • Review District Court jury trials
  • Increase uptake of audio-visual technology in courts to speed up hearings

“We believe in a justice system where New Zealanders are not blocked by cost, system delays, or confusing processes, and where all voices in our community can be heard,” Labour Leader Chris Hipkins said.

“If elected, Labour will establish a formal class actions regime, which will allow victims with similar interests to collectively sue in a more efficient and cost-effective way than currently possible.

“New Zealand does not currently have a dedicated class actions regime, meaning those on lower incomes or without the means to progress a case on their own are often shut out of our legal system because of the cost of taking individual action.

“This is about fairness, and Labour has a proud record of standing up for everyday New Zealanders and their rights,” Chris Hipkins said.

Justice spokesperson Ginny Andersen said Labour will also review the legislative settings for District Court jury trials, to examine whether the system is fit for purpose.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of complex jury trials taking place, along with a rise in defendants opting for jury trials. This has slowed down the courts and created backlogs,” Ginny Andersen said.

“Reform in this area could include examining the threshold for jury trials, what information jurors are asked to consider and issues around more complex cases.

“In Government we’ve progressed a number of initiatives to speed up delays in the court system, including the use of audio-visual link technology to increase the amount of court appearances that can take place.

“Labour will change the law to further increase the uptake of audio-visual technology in the courts. Some temporary changes made during the Covid-19 pandemic will be made permanent and be taken further in minor cases.

“This will contribute greatly to a more efficient court system to deliver timely justice,” Ginny Andersen said.

Labour will also modernise consent laws in line with other jurisdictions to better protect victims of sexual crimes, building upon our strong record of backing victims.

“For too long victims of sexual violence have been re-traumatised and silenced by outdated laws that don’t properly protect them,” Ginny Andersen said.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from advocates that change is needed, and we’ll draw upon these advocates, survivors with lived experience and justice experts. This includes advice from a petition signed by 12,000 people which was considered last month by Parliament’s Justice Committee.

“Work will include exploring the introduction of a positive definition of consent – defining what consent is rather than what it is not – and examining offences involving sexual conduct to see whether they are fit for purpose.

“It will build on Labour’s proud record of protecting and supporting victims, which includes creating a new criminal offence for strangulation, tripling the funding for the Victims Assistance Scheme and doubling the funding for Victim Support.

“And last week we announced we’ll go further for victims in relation to stalking and harassment and will review the reparations system, to speed up payments to victims.

“Progressing justice reform requires a properly resourced justice system. These changes would be impossible under National, who intend to cut the justice system to fund their dodgy tax plan. This is likely to result in longer court delays, fewer prosecutions and less support for victims,” Ginny Andersen said.

Labour will continue with work it began in Government to ensure our justice system is efficient, adequately resourced and supported:

  • Continue the roll out of the Family Court Associates, freeing up judges’ time so they can focus on the backlog of Family Court cases, and the roll out of Associate Coroners, to speed up the Coroners Court.
  • Deliver a new digital system for courts and move away from a paper-based system.
  • Continue the building of a new Tauranga Courthouse
  • Continue seismic strengthening upgrades at the Auckland District Court, Hamilton District Court and Wellington High Court.
  • Pass legislation to address name suppression settings, litigation abuse, and questioning children about consent.
  • Evaluate the progress of a series of pilot programmes which aim to improve safety and experience in the court system for victims of serious crime, strengthen support for child victims of sexual violence, and ensure victim’s views are heard in bail decisions, and consider how the solutions could be scaled up.

Our commitments to improve the justice system complement our recently announced Safer Communities policy, which included a further increase of 300 additional frontline Police officers above attrition, creating the best ratio of Police to population in modern history, and new ways to crack down on gang convoys and gang leaders.