I wish I could give you a hug, June. For what you've been through, and for your extraordinary moral courage.
I am about to head off to Jury Service for the first time. While trying to sort out the household and childcare arrangements so I can do this, I have found my thoughts coming back to your story quite often. I am sorry for your experience, but grateful for your sharing. For me, the 'innocent until proven guilty' and 'judged by your peers' is a crucial element of our system (especially as our democracy and rights are bullied away) BUT I now realise I need to incorporate more than just empathy for victims and witnesses; I somehow need to keep front of mind that the process is trying to break the prosecution. I'm a very ordinary NZ Mary Sue, who has never participated in the court system, but I just wanted to let you know I will be thinking of you as I learn about it.
Thank you for your courage in sharing, June. Arohanui.
The plight of victims of crime is appalling and made worse by the justice system. It's not the lawyers' fault, nor is it the fault of the judges, it's legislation that must change for things to change. Defence lawyers unfortunately are duty bound to do all that they can to challenge the prosecution case, even to the extent of re-victimising complainants.
The system can fail victims in more ways than June has described. I've served on a jury for a sexual abuse of a minor case that got abandoned (charges withdrawn) because it turned out some of the prosecution evidence had been exaggerated by the complainant. It was really a shame because even the judge remarked that it was obvious something had happened, but it could no longer be substantiated in a reliable enough way to bring an unchallengeable conviction. The end result being that an immature teenager whose evidence should have been more closely examined by the police before presenting it to the courts was let down and made to feel unworthy of justice. The alleged abuser was probably left feeling vindicated and would undoubtedly not seek to make any meaningful change in their own life. And this juror was left feeling dissatisfied with aspects of our legal system.
I don't know what the answer is, but some of it must lie in the more robust examination of evidence in a way that is less traumatic for victims BEFORE it gets to the point where entire cases swing on the smallest margin of error.
Substantial change can only happen through legislation, but not the type of change that politicians want to sell us. Let's not get tougher on crime, but fairer on victims