New family violence laws

John Key announced:

“New Zealand’s rate of family violence is unacceptable. Police currently respond to 110,000 family violence call-outs a year. Children are present at nearly two-thirds of these incidents.

“There are too many Kiwi households stuck in a life of fear and despair. They need help to stop the violence and repression so they can lead healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives.”

Mr Key said today’s announcement comes after a two year review of family violence laws by Justice Minister Amy Adams. It will see more than 50 changes to the current Act.

“The new measures announced today are focused on faster and more effective intervention.  We have to get better at identifying dangerous behaviour that can escalate into more serious violence much earlier.”

Some of the new measures include:

  • Making the safety of victims a principal consideration in all bail decisions, and central to parenting and property orders.
  • Flagging all family violence offending on criminal records to ensure Courts and Police know when they are dealing with people with histories of family violence.
  • Creating new offences of non-fatal strangulation and assault on a family member, with tougher sentences than common assault. Coercion to marry will also be criminalised.
  • Enforcing tougher penalties for people who commit crimes while subject to a Protection Order.

The new measures will cost around $130 million over four years.

I really like the focus on bail decisions being focused on victim safety. There is a huge need for tougher penalties for protection order breaches and the new offences should help also.

The PM’s full speech is here and worth a read. Some extracts:

For most New Zealanders, home is a sanctuary.

But for some, home can sometimes be the opposite.

It can be a place of fear, anxiety and danger. …

Today I want to focus on how we intend to address the harm in our society caused by repeated family violence.

This is usually, though not exclusively, perpetrated by men on their partners or former partners, and on one or more of their children.

I am going to outline for you changes we will be making to reduce this kind of cruelty. …

New Zealanders generally resist government interference in their private lives, and I get that.

But let me say straight up that in households where anyone is being assaulted, threatened, intimidated, belittled or deprived, the perpetrator has no right to expect privacy so they can go on being a bully.

If they won’t stop that behaviour, and the victims can’t stop it, then we must ensure that someone else stops it.

This is why we have Governments. To protect those who need protection.

First, I want to say to victims: you are not alone.

You deserve and are entitled to a life free from fear, and your children deserve and are entitled to that too. Help is available.

Secondly, to the perpetrators of this misery I say this: recognise what is going on in your home and take responsibility for it.

A good father, a good step-father and a good man does not hit, intimidate or control his spouse, partner, ex-partner or her children. The same goes for women who are abusers.

You do not create a better family by hitting them, belittling them, or by making them live in fear of you.

You do not own your spouse, your partner, your ex-partner, your children or your step-children.

If you act in a violent and controlling way, you can change that behaviour.

Own the problem.

Nothing will get better until you do.

A great speech, in my view.

Also the $132 million investment is well worth it, if it reduces the level of family violence we have.

There is a useful fact sheet here. Some further details:

  • Non-fatal strangulation will have a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment.
  • Coercion to marry will have a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.
  • Assault on a family member will have a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment.

Not clear though what the penalty will be for breaches of protection orders.

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