Protecting our families

Column Articles
Thursday, September 22, 2016

People should feel safe at home with their family. For most of us, this is the reality. Sadly, for some of us, it is not. For some people home is a place of terror.

Half of New Zealand’s homicides are family violence related. Last year, Police responded to 110,000 family violence call-outs. There were children present at nearly two-thirds of these call-outs. The likes of our local woman’s refuge and hard-working support groups including our own Tauranga Women’s Refuge and Shakti who do an incredible job of preventing and supporting victims. But we need and must do better.

Solving social problems often means confronting difficult and distressing issues. This has never stopped us from facing the hard problems and taking action, particularly where we think we can make a positive difference in people’s lives.

We are making significant changes to family violence legislation. Both civil and criminal laws will be changed and Ministers and departments across 16 different portfolios are working together to redesign the way our system prevents and responds to family violence.

We’re going to ensure all family violence is clearly identified and risk information is properly shared. We want people to be able to get help without having to go to court, and we’ll put the safety of victims at the heart of bail decisions. Our changes include creating new offences for strangulation, coercion to marry, and assault on a family member.  We will also make offending while on a Protection Order a specific aggravating factor in sentencing.

It will be easier to apply for Protection Orders and we’ll enable approved non-governmental organisations to apply on a victim’s behalf. We will improve protection and care for children by better provision for the rights of children under Protection Orders, aligning Care of Children orders to the family violence regime, and trialling supervised handovers. We will make evidence gathering in family violence cases easier for Police and less traumatic for victims.

But family violence is not a problem that laws and Government alone can solve. We all need to think differently and do our bit. This Government is putting a stake in the ground and taking another critical step for all New Zealanders.

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