Politics

New Minister for Justice pledges ‘victim-centric’ approach

Curbing violent crime and looking after victims are the newly minted Justice Minister’s top priorities.

East Coast MP Kiri Allan picked up the justice portfolio, previously held by Kris Faafoi, in this week’s Cabinet reshuffle.

She’s still getting her feet under the desk but told RNZ she wanted to bring “a very victim-centric” approach to the new role.

“The way that we treat victims within the system is one of my top priorities, which is why I’m so concerned with some of the things that you’ve revealed over the last couple of days,” she said.

RNZ reported on a budget bid document this week that shows the Justice Ministry and Victim Support deliberately under-promote a financial grant scheme for victims to keep within budget.

“This approach is untenable because victims are being deliberately excluded from accessing support they are entitled to receive,” justice officials wrote.

Allan said it was important to her that anybody harmed by somebody else received the entitlements the government had set aside to provide them.

“I have reviewed the material that you’ve seen as well. To see that there has been … inaction when it comes to supporting victims of crime is certainly something that isn’t part of my direction.”

The minister did not have any new policies or funding to announce but said she would be in a position to share changes come July.

Allan also wanted to prioritise violent crime, and was asking officials to give her an overview of what was being done to curb crime and identity what wasn’t “fit for purpose.”

“The last thing I want to do as the newly minted Minister for Justice is to create some kind of knee-jerk reaction that isn’t grounded in evidence,” she said.

Allan said she would be working closely with the new Police Minister Chris Hipkins after she’d had a few weeks in the job.

“We’ll be wanting to knock our heads together over the next couple of weeks to look whether we need to reset any direction and what that might look like.

“So I anticipate about two to three weeks in we’ll probably have a pretty fulsome set of views that we’ll be presenting back to our colleagues.”

The Minister also told RNZ justice officials had assured her workplace issues raised in an independent report on Victim Support were isolated.

The charity, bankrolled by the taxpayer, was forced to hand a full copy of the report to the Ministry last week after refusing to share it beyond its board.

The secret report was put together by independent investigator Charlotte Stevens who looked into allegations of bullying, bad training and delivery failure.

Allan said she had already made inquiries about this report and been briefed by a senior official who had read it in full.

“I have been assured from my officials that the issues aren’t systemic, rather they’re isolated to key individuals within the organisation.

“This was one of the first questions I asked as soon as I got the warrant as I was very concerned.”

Officials would be advising her on any further steps she needed to make on the Victim Support report in the next few weeks, she said.

“Like I said, I’m going to have a very victim-centric approach to this portfolio so ensuring that people get the adequate support that they need is a priority.”

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