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Justice Minister launches review to tackle domestic violence

05 August 2015

Justice Minister Amy Adams has launched a review and discussion document that aims to revitalise the infrastructure around tackling domestic violence.

Ms Adams says the review of New Zealand's family violence legislation is the latest development relating to the package of measures announced by Prime Minister John Key in July 2014.

"In my view, family violence is one of the most insidious forms of social evil facing this country. And more must be done to address it."

In 2014, more than 100,000 incidents were reported to Police – around one every five minutes. Nearly half of all homicides and reported violent crimes are family violence-related.

Between 1 July 2014 and 31 March 2015 there were 51,641 family violence referrals made by the Police to Child Youth and Family – a 20% increase on the figures for the same period between 2013 and 2014, which was 42,974.

The review aims to look at establishing: 

  • a set of standalone family violence offences, 
  • creating an additional and alternative pathway for victims, perpetrators and whānau who want help to stop violence other than going to court, 
  • overall improved accessibility and effectiveness of protection orders, 
  • sharing information more effectively between agencies and the courts, 
  • the possibility of requiring mandatory arrests for protection order breaches, and 
  • more prominence to victim safety in legislation.

Ms Adams says a legislation review is one of many ways the Government is striving to get victims the help they need, hold perpetrators to account, and stop family violence from happening in the first place, she says.

The law underpins the Government's response to family violence, so they need to make sure the broad set of laws that apply to family violence are effective and work well together, she says.

"When it was passed in 1995, the Domestic Violence Act was world-leading. It set out a clear response to family violence and distinguished it from other forms of crimes. While successive Governments have modified it over the years, it's time for a rethink," Ms Adams says.

New Zealand Law Society Family Law Section Chair Allan Cooke says the Law Society welcomes the Government's announcement of the family violence work programme.

"We also support initiatives that will assist those who commit family violence – the other side of the same coin - so we can begin to reduce the very high rates of family violence and in that way continue the work of breaking that most insidious dynamic – the cycle of violence."

Dr Cooke says family violence and sexual violence rates are high in New Zealand with the highest rate of intimate partner violence out of 14 OECD countries in the decade 2000 to 2010.

Most family lawyers act for parties involved in proceedings under each of the primary statutes that involve family violence, he says.

"The focus for all in such instances is the need to see that vulnerable people who are victims of domestic violence are protected and steps taken to address the impact and consequences of that violence."

The review is part of a package of initiatives that started in 2014. These include: 

  • establishing a violence summary report;
  • a Chief Victims Advisor to the government;
  • safety alarms for high risk victims;
  • intensive case management;
  • a victims' code and a national home safety service; 
  • improving judges' access to information;
  • speeding up court cases;
  • drawing inferences from a defendant's silence; and 
  • ensuring there is more information around the health of a defendant.

The public consultation runs until 18 September 2015.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019