New Bill aims to bring closure to murder victim's families

By Tema Hemi

Families of murder victims will have a better opportunity for closure to mourn their loved ones if a new members' bill is passed through parliament this year, advocates say.

This follows Hamilton West National MP Tim Macindoe's lodging of the Concealment of Location of Victims Remains Bill as a private members' bill. The bill proposes that convicted murderers should not receive parole if they do not reveal the location of their victim's remains.

The distress of families not able to fully mourn and bid farewell to lost loved ones is immeasurable, as public reaction to the bill confirms.

"When one doesn't return to its mother, she becomes overwhelmed in sadness," one person told Te Ao.  Another said, "It would be quiet traumatic. Family do need remains for closure, that's a bit of a cultural thing you know."

"I believe we should allow for whānau to have a time to mourn over their mate," another person responded. 

"For families that are missing somebody or someone's gone missing, I could imagine that would be quiet heart-breaking," another member of the public said.

The bill would require the parole board to take into account a prisoner's refusal to reveal the location of their victim's bodies when considering whether they should be released.

National spokesperson Chris Penk says, "It's really responding to a situation we've had a number of times in New Zealand and overseas, we've seen it as well. Also looking to law changes in the UK, for example, where we've got victim's families where there's been a homicide and the body hasn't been revealed." 

This bill is part of national's law and order policy which the party says puts victims at the heart of the justice system. 

"It's 100% important that victims are at the centre of the criminal justice system, that's because they're involved in a way that is no fault of their own. It's not their doing that they've been involved and similarly their families of course," Penk says. 

At this point, the proposed bill seems popular with New Zealanders. 

"It's the same in Australia, I recall that sort of thing being discussed because I've been living over there for several years, and I thought it was fair and reasonable," one person told Te Ao.

"I think that it's not a bad idea in terms of incentivising the perpetrator to identify the location of bodies," another said.  

Penk says, "A few people will be affected by it so it's actually about doing the right thing, rather than having something that has wide appeal or application."

The national spokesperson says that it is a no-brainer and he is not expecting any opposition to the bill. Penk says he is optimistic it will be introduced to the house within the next couple of months. 

The government is reported to consider that the parole board already has power to consider this factor when looking at whether there is genuine remorse in deciding if a prisoner should be released.