Victim Impact Statements

Danya Levy at Stuff reports:

The father of Dunedin murder victim Sophie Elliott says families should be able to say what they want in victim impact statements, and welcomes Government moves in that direction.

Justice Minister Simon Power yesterday introduced the Victims of Crime Reform Bill to Parliament.

It makes a range of changes, among them clearer guidelines around victim impact statements.

“As there are currently no guidelines governing victim impact statements case law has evolved around what cannot be said, including an outline of the offence and opinions or comment on the offender,” Power said.

“This has lead to the unacceptable situation where a victim is effectively censored so they don’t offend the offender.”

Gil Elliott’s statement on the impact of his daughter’s death had entire sections crossed out at the judge’s request, before it was read in court.

Elliott said it was censorship and another example of the justice system treating victims poorly.

Sophie Elliott, 22, was stabbed to death in her bedroom by former boyfriend Clayton Weatherston in January 2008. Weatherston was sentenced to life in prison in 2009, with a minimum non-parole period of 18 years.

Her father today welcomed moves to improve the statement process.

“I think it’s a very good idea,” he told Radio New Zealand.

It is a good idea, and an overdue one. However it is only in the last year or so as victims and their families have spoken out, have many of us realised that their statements are routinely censored.

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