Solicitor-General's Guidelines for Prosecuting Sexual Violence as of 1 July 2019

The Solicitor-General’s Guidelines for Prosecuting Sexual Violence took effect from 1 July 2019. It is not expected that they will result in significant changes to current prosecutors’ practice (there are regional variations in some respects so the degree of change will vary).  The Guidelines are intended to record existing best practice.

They should be read together with the Solicitor-General’s Prosecution Guidelines and the Victims of Crime – Guidance for Prosecutors, both of which apply in respect of all prosecutions. If there is any inconsistency between the Guidelines, the Sexual Violence Prosecution Guidelines are preferred.

These Guidelines apply to all sexual cases in New Zealand, whether they are Crown prosecutions (as defined in the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 and Crown Prosecution Regulations 2013) or prosecutions that are not Crown prosecutions and therefore conducted by staff of the New Zealand Police Prosecution Service. While they have been written for prosecutors, they may also be useful for witnesses and other participants in the justice system.

The Guidelines do not deal with investigations or the test for prosecution. They also do not apply in respect of prosecutions in the Youth Court unless or until a prosecution is transferred to either the District or High Courts. Prosecutors in the Youth Court should follow the Guidelines as far as practicable.

Counsel’s attention is drawn in particular to the provisions in section 8 aimed at avoiding delay including early review (para 8.2) and the need to ensure that disclosure is completed as soon as practicable (para 8.4.1).

We also note paragraph 13.1.1 which provides that “[w]here inappropriate material appears in a victim impact statement, prosecutors should either redact the material or acknowledge in their submissions to the court that it should not be taken into account.” Counsel should be mindful of this change when reviewing victim impact statements and might wish to refamiliarise themselves with R v Burns [2001] 2 NZLR 464 and s17 Victims’ Rights Act 2002.

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