12.3We recognise the work of the Ministry of Justice on a Victims Code and a chief adviser for victims, and in the field of family violence. We consider that there are important features that distinguish sexual violence and thus victims of sexual violence, which mean that sexual violence should be treated as a distinct policy area.
12.4The focus in this Report is on how victims of sexual violence can be best supported before, during and after entering a justice process. This has a justice element but also concerns victims’ medical and therapeutic needs and their social circumstances. For that reason, the functions highlighted here would be better fulfilled by a body that can take those various elements into account, rather than the Ministry of Justice which is limited to the justice sphere.
12.5We consider an independent public body is required to fulfil the functions outlined in Chapter 11, for the following reasons.
12.6Firstly, an independent public body can promote and manage cross-agency coordination and collaboration, thereby breaking down silos and promoting cooperation and cohesion across the sector. We acknowledge that this may be perceived as necessitating some loss of control by the sector but we consider this is an inevitable and necessary consequence of effective coordination, which is currently missing, negatively impacting the provision of services to and support of victims. In order to collaborate across the sector with service providers, the lead coordinating body requires independence and the ability to communicate across the sector without being influenced by the culture or area of responsibility of a particular organisation.
12.7Secondly, an independent public body would realistically be the sole body with adequate resources to fulfil this role and the mandate to implement the scope of reform identified in this Report.
12.8Thirdly, an independent public body is best placed to have access to both community and government service providers (including Police and the courts) and, for instance, to traverse the divide currently in place that requires Ministry of Justice victims’ advisers to remain in the domain of the courts.
12.10Fifthly, satisfying the functions identified earlier requires long-term and ongoing investment. We believe that an independent public body charged with leading the Government’s response and working with the sector would be better placed to sustain continued oversight, independent of any restructuring or rationalising that may occur with future changes of government or departmental reorganisation. We recommend the body be created by statute, so that it has the necessary powers to fulfil its functions and is not affected by political change.