Chapter 5
Court specialisation for sexual violence cases

Proposal for judicial specialisation

5.75We recommend that judicial specialisation should be achieved by requiring judges to hold a designation before they may sit on sexual violence cases. The “ticketing” system of judges in the United Kingdom is similar to this. Combined with cultural change being led from within the judiciary itself, the “ticketing” system is said to have brought about real progress in the United Kingdom.407 Although it is a form of specialisation, the requirements to obtain the ticket are not overly onerous and as such most judges have it.

5.76Similarly, we suggest that the requirements to obtain the designation in New Zealand should not be too burdensome so that most judges will feel able to acquire it. There could be two basic preconditions to obtaining the designation: (1) that the judge has completed the necessary education requirements; and (2) that the judge is considered a suitable person to deal with matters of sexual violence by reason of their training, experience and personality.

5.77An approach of this kind is already taken for judges who sit on family law and youth justice proceedings. In each case the designation is conferred by the Chief District Court Judge who is empowered to do so under legislation.408 A similar, non-statutory system has been developed internally for the designation of judges to exercise the civil jurisdiction of the District Courts.409 Either of these approaches could be readily applied to a designation for judges to sit on sexual violence cases.

5.78We do not recommend that appellate judges who hear sexual violence appeals should be required to be designated. It will not be necessary for judges at appellate level to complete education on directing the jury and controlling cross-examination, because at appellate level there is no cross-examination and no jury.

5.79We recommend that the Institute of Judicial Studies be properly funded to create and deliver judicial education, in consultation with both the judiciary itself and the sexual violence support sector.


407Letter from Emily Henderson to the Law Commission regarding alternative trial processes reference (14 September 2015).
408Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989, s 435.
409Judges of the District Courts of New Zealand “Submission to the Justice and Electoral Committee on the Judicature Modernisation Bill 2013” at [97].