Appropriate compensation for victims: Keith’s speech at the committee stages of the Prisoners’ and Victims’ Claims (Expiry and Application Dates) Amendment Bill

One of the problems with the Prisoners’ and Victims’ Claims (Expiry and Application Dates) Amendment Bill—and it is a problem with the Act that came into force under the last Government—is that it gives the impression that victims are getting serious financial compensation. In fact, they are not. It is just crumbs from the table for a few victims. The real question of proper compensation for all victims of crime is not addressed in this bill. In fact, it is interesting that when the original bill came through under the Labour Government and became an Act, it was the victim support organisations that were amongst the harshest critics of the legislation, because they saw that it would give some pretence that there was real compensation for victims, when there was not any universal scheme for providing appropriate financial compensation.

There has been some development—and the police have done a good job in this area—in the area of victim support immediately after a crime is committed, when people have suffered badly and experienced psychological trauma. There is a great volunteer system across the country, where people give freely of their time to help the police to be with the victims at their time of greatest trauma. But when we get to the follow-up system of proper financial compensation to put people back on the road and to compensate them for what they have suffered, we find that it is not really there. In fact, as has been commented on before, there is a perversity in the legislation in terms of the crumbs from the table that some victims might get.

Victims almost have a vested interest in criminals in jail being beaten up and then making a compensation claim, so that the victims will then get a little bit of it themselves. It is a twisted logic way of getting compensation as a victim of crime. The whole concept of punishment is distorted by this bill. When people commit crimes, they are sentenced to punishment, a term in prison. That is the punishment—the term in prison. They are not sentenced to have other things done to them—being beaten up, or anything like that.

There is almost a concept behind this bill that perhaps they deserve a bit of beating up, a bit of punishment, because if they are beaten up, it will not be rewarded so much in terms of compensation. There is the concept that they are lesser beings with lesser rights, and that is a very bad concept that eats away at our ethics. The root of all prejudice is defining a category of people as lesser beings, and perhaps being subject to mistreatment and beating. In the extreme cases, of course, we have these fratricidal conflicts and ethnic conflicts where people beat up and kill each other because they treat the other lot as lesser beings.

Prejudice in this society towards prisoners—and Tariana Turia mentioned that in her very good speech—carries over to prejudice against other races, particularly races that are more highly represented in the prison population. This bill, by treating prisoners as lesser beings with lesser rights, including lesser right to compensation, is feeding that stereotyping of people in a negative way. It cannot be tolerated, and that is why the Green Party is voting against this bill.


House of Representatives