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Integrated domestic violence court merits further investigation

30 August 2017

Further investigation of a proposed "integrated domestic violence court" has merit, although the proposal presents some difficulties, the New Zealand Law Society says.

The Law Society has communicated its comments on the Law Foundation-funded discussion paper One Court, One Judge - an integrated court system for New Zealand families affected by violence.

The discussion paper looks at whether a one court/one judge system would be better than a multiple court/multiple judge system for New Zealand families affected by violence.

The Law Society says some aspects of the current legal framework for information sharing between the criminal and family jurisdictions are problematic, and an integrated domestic violence court that facilitated information sharing could be beneficial.

However, it says, there are different evidential rules and a different standard of proof between the criminal and family jurisdictions, and full information sharing between the two jurisdictions may not be appropriate.

It says there is no objection to one judge determining a criminal and family matter where there has been an admission of guilt from the defendant and/or a conviction. It is assumed the majority of cases before the integrated domestic violence (IDV) court involving criminal matters would be where the defendant has pleaded guilty.

"There are, however, significant concerns about the proposed IDV Court where a criminal matter is defended," the Law Society says.

"In those instances, there should not be one judge dealing with a defended criminal proceeding as well as a family court proceeding, particularly if the criminal proceeding is heard after the family court matter. There are different standards of proof in the two jurisdictions, a different body of case law regarding evidential matters, and different well-established principles with respect to the admissibility of evidence."

The Law Society concludes that a District Court judge managing the family proceedings in the IDV Court should not be the hearing judge if there is a defended criminal matter.

The Law Society says it would welcome the opportunity to be involved in further discussions if the IDV Court proposal is to proceed.

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Last updated on the 30th August 2017