Police Minister Paula Bennett and Justice Minister Amy Adams say using digital devices to take onsite statements from victims of family violence will reduce the stress on victims, save Police time and create richer evidence for the courts.
“From today, officers in Counties Manukau will trial using an app on their phone to record audio-visual victim statements. Instead of requiring victims of family violence to provide a written and signed statement of what happened back at the station, Police will video the victim's statement. This will be a lot faster, less complex and completed on scene,” Mrs Bennett says.
“The new approach will change how Police respond at family harm investigations, it will make an already difficult situation less stressful, while keeping with internationally recommended practice.”
“The intention is to have these statements played in court. Videos can only be taken with the victim’s consent. They will be uploaded to secure, cloud-based storage while the investigation and court process takes place,” Ms Adams says.
“Victim video statements are part of a larger programme of work to provide better services to victims and further reduce harm caused by family violence. Counties Manukau Police have received support for the initiative from Victim Support, Eastern Women’s Refuge, and Court Services for Victims at the Manukau District Court.”
The pilot will be evaluated, including frontline officer and victim feedback, and recommendations will be made regarding next steps.
The use of mobile devices to video record family harm victim statements were first tested from November 2015 to July 2016 by staff in Palmerston North as part of a proof of concept. In May 2016 it was ruled in the Palmerston North District Court to decline the admissibility of the victim’s video statement to be played in court as their evidence in chief.
That ruling reinforced that changes needed to be made to the Evidence Regulations, recognising considerable technological advancements for obtaining evidence were now available. As a result, the Ministry of Justice amended the Evidence Regulations to include provisions for mobile video records in criminal proceedings relating to family violence. These changes came into effect on 9 January 2017.