Early guilty pleas for family harm offenders

Sergeant Selina Gordan. Photo: Supplied.

Victim Video Statements have nearly doubled the likelihood of an early guilty plea in court.

VVS's have been in use for family harm cases since 2017, but a recent evaluation, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, has revealed the huge success the initiative has had.

Inspector Ross Ellwood is thrilled with the result after using VVS)in his daily work.

“It not only holds the offenders to account a lot earlier – it saves the victim and the officer time at the scene. In the past, we took a written statement and that’s a lengthy process. Now it’s a video taken in the back of a patrol car or the victim’s house.

 “By using our personal police mobility devices, we can capture the video for evidence and upload it to a secure server -  it’s quicker than writing. It saves time for everyone, especially for the families.

“It also saves time on court process and the victim doesn’t have to give evidence in chief – their video is accepted, and they don’t have to recount their story again.”

Sergeant Selina Gordon, a VVS coordinator in Northland District, thinks one of the best things about VVS is it enables a victim to give their statement there and then, no matter the time of day or night. 

“The process is a lot shorter than giving a written statement, they don’t have to worry about child-care or getting their kids out of bed in the middle of the night to come to the station while the victim gives a statement.”

Constable Laura Blummont, Family Harm Intervention Coordinator from Hastings says it’s a great tool that makes it so much easier to capture the intensity of the incidents. 

“Written statements really don’t have the same effect.  I feel that the victims don’t have to spend as much time relaying the incident.  I’m all for making it easier for our victims.”

Associate Professor Darren Walton of Crow's Nest Research observed Police officers explaining the results of the research to victims. 

“Officers advised victims at family harm incidents that a VVS increases the likelihood of an early guilty plea and will likely spare them further ordeal in court.

 “New Zealand leads the world in offering digitally-recorded victim statements which are better evidence,  provide greater detail and better accounts of victims' experiences,” he says.

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