New offences for family violence announced

Author
Newstalk ZB Staff ,
Section
National,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 13 September 2016, 12:44p.m.
The changes have just been unveiled by the Prime Minister who said the level of family violence in New Zealand, at more than 110,000 callouts a year, is unacceptable (iStock)

UPDATED 5.34PM A crackdown on family violence following a two-year review of the law will see more than 50 new charges, including strangulation, coercion to marry and assault on a family member.

LISTEN ABOVE: Justice Minister Amy Adams speaks with Larry Williams about the Government's crackdown on family violence

The changes have just been unveiled by the Prime Minister who said the level of family violence in New Zealand, at more than 110,000 callouts a year, is unacceptable.

Among the changes are a shift in protection orders with others, like a parent, being able to apply for one on a victim's behalf.

Measures will allow help to be offered to victims without having to go to court and making it easier to the police to gather evidence in family violence cases.

The Government said in the future the safety of victims will be at the heart of all bail decisions.

However, John Key said in the short term, the new charges will probably lead to an increase in family violence statistics.

"Because this will be heightened, because the police have more powers, because there are stronger penalties and sentences, inevitably initially, you'll see more reporting of family violence.

"Now that's actually a good thing that people are coming into the open, but of course our long-term aim is to see a reduction."

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 the courts and the 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

John Key said two of the new charges identified especially make sense.

"Strangulation is one of the factors, when it's prevalent, is far more likely to lead to far more severe forms of family violence, including potentially murder.

"Coercion to marry, I think as people will understand, in a modern day New Zealand that shouldn't be something that's happening."

SHINE general manager Jane Drumm sees this as a great victory for New Zealand - seeing it as symbolic that the Prime Minister delivered today's announcement.

"We need to have strong, strong support from a Government if we're going to get any kind of traction on this issue. It is endemic in this country, we've got the worst rates in the world."

Labour's associate Justice spokesperson Poto Williams is welcoming the overhaul, but only as a first step.

She said making the safety of victims a principal consideration in all bail decisions is only dealing with offenders at the time, rather than the system that creates them.

"So we've got to look at issues of work, of low income, of alcohol and substance abuse, we've got to deal with the trauma that children experience when they're living in homes where they witness or experience violence."

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