Protection order breaches should have serious consequences

The Herald reports:

More than 12,000 Kiwis have repeatedly breached court orders to stay away from their victims, and one person has been convicted for doing so 14 times.

Ministry of Justice figures released to the Herald paint a disturbing picture of family violence in New Zealand, showing 12,157 people have been convicted for 20,864 protection order breaches in the 11 years to December 31, 2015.

A protection order is a court-imposed sanction to keep an offender away from their victims, and those at the front line believe the data is the tip of the iceberg as victims are too scared to report the crimes.

Released to the Herald under the Official Information Act, the data shows some offenders repeatedly flouting the orders.

One person in the Manawatu/Wairarapa area was convicted 14 times for breaching an order, and another in the Bay of Plenty/Coromandel area has been convicted for 13 breaches.

Three people were convicted for 12 breaches, two for 11 breaches and 10 for 10 breaches. The date show 129 convictions for six breaches, 237 for five breaches, 486 for four, 1075 for three and 2654 for two.

I regard a breach of a protection order as an extremely serious thing. Those who breach them often go on to kill or maim the people who have the order against them.

I’d support an automatic spell in jail for anyone who breaches a protection order. Maybe just a week even, but unless there is significant consequences to breaching one, they will remain not very useful.

Shine director Jill Proudfoot said it was widely accepted that many breaches went unreported. “It is very much the tip of the iceberg. Quite often people who have a protection order will not bother to report what might be considered a low-level breach because they are not responded to seriously enough.

“We have experience with a lot of women who report breaches and find that the response to that from the police or from courts puts them at further risk.

“There seems to be a view among police and judiciary that a breach of a protection order has degrees of seriousness and I think that completely goes against the intent of the original legislation.”

She said every breach should result in an arrest and an offender being taken into custody.

I agree.

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