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Justice Minister Amy Adams announced last week that there will be a “comprehensive” review of family violence laws in New Zealand.
“The rate of family violence in New Zealand is horrific,” Adams said. “While the Government has a comprehensive work programme underway, I think the law can do more to reduce the incidence and impact of family violence.”
The Domestic Violence Act was passed in 1995 and specifies that domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional and/or psychological, and defines a domestic relationship as one that is romantic, familial, personal or within the household.
The Care of Children Act 2004 protects children’s welfare and outlines parents’ responsibilities towards children in terms of custody and guardianship.
The Ministry’s discussion documents claim that although current legislation is generally considered to be sound, “after 20 years it is time to look more broadly at the legal response to family violence, and to assess whether it has kept up to date with developments in the understanding of family violence.”
Women’s Refuge CEO Ang Jury has praised the proposed law strengthening and claims “it is very appropriate that coming up to the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act that we can reconsider its effectiveness and look at what it means to strengthen the Justice sector in response to violence within families.”
However Police Association President Greg O’Connor says the violence rates could be tackled with resources rather than legislation, suggesting that “better resourcing… could be a better way to go about it, rather than the probably simplistic and much cheaper version of trying to legislate our way out of it”.
Figures from the Ministry of Justice show on average 14 women, seven men and eight children are killed every year by a family member in New Zealand, but just 20 per cent of family violence cases are reported to police.
The New Zealand Police investigated over 100,000 cases of domestic abuse last year.
Public consultation over the laws will be open until 18 September and you can have your say on the Ministry of Justice website or make a written submission via email via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Government’s proposals
- Establishing standalone family violence offences
- Creating an alternative pathway from the court for victims, perpetrators and whanau to stop violence
- Improved information sharing
- Improving the accessibility and effectiveness of protection orders
- More prominence to acts such as the Care of Children Act