Working hard against family violence

Column Articles
Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Family violence in this country is too high.

Despite crime in New Zealand falling to its lowest rate since 1978, our rates of family violence are appallingly high.

Last year alone, 100,000 incidences were reported to Police – around one every five minutes.

The fantastic groups that we have in our community strive towards the reduction and complete elimination of domestic and family violence. The likes of Shakti, the Tauranga Women’s Refuge, Family Works and It’s Not OK Papamoa among others offer support, information and advocacy for the most vulnerable New Zealanders.

The great work our community groups do is important and the National-led Government is taking action across the board to better protect families and victims of family violence.

Ministers from across 16 portfolios have come together to form the Ministerial Group on Family and Sexual Violence, which will oversee a whole-of government strategy for addressing family and sexual violence. 

Within the justice part of this work, we’re overhauling our family violence laws. Almost 500 individuals and organisations made submissions on our discussion document. We’re exploring options and will look to make announcements around our changes soon.

But it’s not just about the law. We have improved judges’ access to information in family violence cases by improving information sharing regulations.

Alongside Police and the judiciary, programmes have been running in Porirua and Christchurch to give judges who are making bail decisions a family violence summary report on the defendant’s family violence history.

A new disclosure scheme has also been created to make it easier for Police to release a person’s violent criminal past to a concerned partner or friend. This gives people the ability to do something to help protect their loved ones.

The Government announced it’s looking at making strangulation a specific crime. 

Strangulation is a deeply personal and terrifying form of violence. Family violence victims who have been strangled are seven times more likely to be killed than those who have suffered other forms of violence.  These vicious attacks are typically not prosecuted, or offenders are only charged with generic assault offences.

We are looking at introducing a new standalone strangulation offence that would have a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment.

National has been working hard to make Kiwis safer in their homes and communities. We’re making good progress and will continue our relentless focus on preventing and reducing family violence.