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Offenders To Be Fined $50 Victim Tax

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Jan 19 NZPA - A compensation scheme for crime victims proposed by the Government has been welcomed by victims' advocates.

Every person convicted in court would have to pay a $50 crime tax toward compensating victims under a proposed law National plans to introduce.

The Dominion Post reported the scheme would offer one-off payments to victims of serious crime to cover costs not met by ACC or other state organisations, such as counselling or travel to court.

The proposal was great news for victims who could not afford to take part in Restorative Justice Conferences, said Kim Workman, project director, Rethinking Crime and Punishment.

"There is a range of legislation which promotes and supports restorative justice meetings between victims and offenders -- the Victims Rights Act, Sentencing Act, Parole Act, and the Corrections Act.

"But until now there has been no funding available to meet the cost of organising conferences, or meeting victims' travel costs," Mr Workman said today.

He cited one case of a victim living in Kerikeri, who wanted to meet with an offender who was in Christchurch prison.

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar also welcomed the scheme.

"It's fantastic to see that we're putting victims straight in the centre of the whole process," he said.

The newspaper said last week Justice Minister Simon Power had promised the $90,000 running costs from a disbanded sentencing advisory board would go toward the scheme.

Also, any compensation paid to prisoners for human rights breaches in jail would be confiscated and injected into the compensation scheme, if it was not claimed by the offender's victims.

National planned to set up a victims' service centre within the Justice Ministry to manage the compensation scheme.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said she supported the idea in principle.

"It is a crime tax. There's part of me that doesn't disagree with that if it's going to go to those most affected."

But she suggested low-level offenders might end up subsidising the fund for serious offenders sentenced to jail who would be unlikely to pay the levy.

Mr Workman said it wo uld be important to have a guaranteed annual amount available to assist victims.

It would be unfair if the amount varied from year to year, depending on the ability of the Ministry of Justice to collect revenue from offenders.

"Victims are entitled to be treated with respect, and consistent treatment is part of that," he said.

Mr Workman acknowledged the advocacy work of Victim Support and the Sensible Sentencing Trust in promoting victims' rights.

"Their efforts have borne good fruit," he said.

Opposition justice spokeswoman Annette King said the scheme was a "pure piece of political theatre" that would do little for victims. "If that's all they're offering, then they're really selling the victims a lemon.

"The question must be who's going to get it?" she said.

"It's going to be hugely bureaucratic and I'll be interested to know how many more public servants they're going to need to run it."

Labour had asked the Law Commission to look at how to set up proper victim compensation schemes and that work was continuing.

The legislation will be tabled next month.

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