Chapter 12
The case for a government body

The case for a new public body

12.2In our view, reform would be best implemented through the establishment of a new statutory body tasked with operating specifically in the sexual violence sphere. What is currently lacking in the sexual violence area is whole-of-sector coordination and oversight of how the response to victims is managed at a macro level. There is no single public body that is currently tasked with that role722 and existing government bodies act in accordance with their respective culture and area of responsibility (for example the Ministry of Justice inevitably has a justice focus).723

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.

Why an independent public body?

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.

12.9Fourthly, an independent public body would promote specialisation, increasing the quality and effectiveness of services offered to victims. Sexual violence is a unique field of behaviour and both academics and those in the sector have said that specialist experience and expertise is necessary to address the violence and its after-effects.724 By comparison, if the functions that we argue must be fulfilled were farmed out to several different agencies, none of those agencies would be in a position to build up a bank of specialist expertise in sexual violence or develop a network for collaboration across government and community providers. Growth in specialisation will also be assisted by greater coordination across the sector and understanding of what expertise exists and where.

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.

12.11It is our view that an independent public body is the ideal vehicle for New Zealand to be a world leader in terms of innovative reform supporting victims of sexual violence to meet both their survival and justice needs.725
722Similar issues have faced government in the past. The Family Violence Taskforce was set up in July 2005 by the Labour Government to advise the Family Violence Ministerial Team seeking to increase coordination and leadership in addressing family violence.
723Productivity Commission More Effective Social Services: Draft Report (2015).
724Elisabeth McDonald and Rachel Souness “From ‘real rape’ to real justice in New Zealand Aotearoa: The reform project” in Elisabeth McDonald and Yvette Tinsley (eds) From “Real Rape” to Real Justice: Prosecuting Rape in New Zealand (Victoria University Press, Wellington, 2011) 31 at 40; Ministry of Women’s Affairs Restoring soul: Effective interventions for adult victim/survivors of sexual violence (2009) at 70.
725Advice to the Law Commission from Dr Linda Beckett (June 2015).